Coat firm called to heel over dog collars recalled in fur trade blunder

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SOMEWHERE IN the United States there is a dog right now who is being driven crazy by the gifts his owners have put under the tree ready to be opened on Christmas Day. From one of the packages, a scent will be wafting that the pet just cannot ignore. It is not food that he smells, but himself. Or rather another of his species.

This will be one of the unwitting households that in recent weeks has purchased a $90 (pounds 54) parka from the Burlington Coat Factory, the largest retailer of coats in the land. The parkas are attractive because of the generous collar of fur. But there is problem. What the coat has is a dog collar, not because there is anything religious about it, but because of the origins of the fur.

In one of the strangest instances of a product recall, Burlington has been forced to ask for the return of some 380 parkas featuring these collars. The company had thought it was selling coats with coyote fur. Now it has discovered that the coats, made in China, were made with dog fur.

The blunder was brought to the company's notice this week by the Humane Society of the US. It says that about two million dogs and cats are killed each year for their fur. The practice is centred in Asia, but some of the products, ranging from coats to gloves and hats, go for export to markets where dog would not normally be considered an appropriate article of fashion.

"Burlington Coat Factory got duped," remarked Rick Swain of the Humane Society, "but they're doing the right thing".

Burlington could not be more remorseful. "We were appalled when we heard about it," said a company spokesman, Bernard Brodsky. The coats came to it via a vendor, Stanley Nankin, based in El Paso in Texas. Mr Nankin also said he had been certain the collars were coyote. "I don't know where the fur comes from," he insisted. "We asked for coyote."