If West Hollywood hasn’t done enough to establish itself as an animal rights leader, its city council, the same one that banned most animals from being sold at pet stores last year, may have sealed the title Monday.
In a 3-1 vote, West Hollywood leaders voted for a third time to adopt a ban on the sale of fur clothing within city limits, making it the first city in the nation to do so.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, commonly known as PETA, applauded the city’s vote calling it “just the latest compassionate action for the city” in a message on its website. “We hope that many other cities follow in WeHo’s inspiring footsteps,” the message read.
The ordinance has to come back for a second reading on November 21 before it becomes final, and even then, it won’t go into effect until September 2013.
The previous two votes by the city council were unanimously in favor of the ban. So opponents, like West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Genevieve Morrill, hope the fact that Monday’s vote was not unanimous means the tide is turning.
“I feel like when all the odds were against us, no one thought we would change anyone’s mind, but we did,” said Morrill, who spoke up against the ban on behalf of fashion retailers, who said the fur ban would mean lost business.
”We had one retailer who said she found a location in Beverly Hills and she’s moving,” Morrill said. “We talked with two other businesses who said they would have never opened in West Hollywood if they knew the ban was coming.”
Many retailers said they were afraid to speak up because they feared retaliation by animal rights activists, Morrill said.
If the ordinance passes as is, retailers in West Hollywood would be prohibited from selling clothing items and accessories with animal fur. The ban does not apply to thrift stores, non-profit groups and furniture items. The ban, however, was extended to include hats, gloves, scarves and shoes with fur.
After Councilman John D’Amico first introduced the ban in May, the Fur Information Council of America released a study showing that out of 209 clothing apparel businesses in the city, 91 of them sold clothing or accessories with animal fur.
“What West Hollywood City Council has effectively done is significantly damage businesses and jobs,” said the council’s director Keith Kaplan, who spoke with NBC4’s Colleen Williams after city leaders passed the ban a second time in September.
“This was done without any due diligence, any vetting of the retail community – and any democratic process whatsoever,” Kaplan said.
West Hollywood Mayor John Duran voted in favor of the ban despite admitting he didn’t have all the facts.
He said he had never seen FICA’s economic impact study.
“I voted yes because I thought, this is going to happen regardless. We’ve talked about this for six months now,” Duran said. “Let’s pass it, then that way there’s an escape plan if there are problems with the ordinance, we can make exceptions,” Duran said.
Duran asked the city manager to come back with an economic impact report before the item comes up again in November.
If the report shows a significant economic impact, Duran said he would ask his colleagues to make adjustments to the ordinance, but said that striking down the ban would be unlikely.
“I could understand if we were in a rural state, fur makes sense,” said Duran.
“But here in Los Angeles, fur just seems out of place, except for the purposes of vanity and fashion,” said Duran.
”Is the ordinance perfect? No. But I don’t see fur as making much sense here.”