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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Proposed fur ban irks trappers, fly tiers

The Washington Legislative Building, on the Capitol Campus, as seen from the southeast corner at sunset in this undated photo.  (Jim Camden/The Spokesman-Review / For The Spokesman-Review)

A bill seeking to ban the sale of fur products in Washington has raised the hackles of trappers and fly tiers.

Senate Bill 6294, sponsored by Sen. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, would prohibit the sale of fur products in the state and impose a fine on people who violate the law.

During a hearing on Thursday in front of the Senate Business, Financial Services, Gaming and Trade Committee, Stanford said the bill is aimed at curtailing the sale of fur clothing items, particularly those with materials sourced from foreign fur farms “that have rather cruel practices.”

The bill garnered support from multiple animal rights organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Rights Initiative. Supporters argued it’s a necessary step toward reducing demand for fur products sourced from an industry they say is cruel to its animals.

But it drew opposition from fur industry advocates as well as organizations representing trappers and hunters and people involved in the fly fishing industry, who said the provisions of the bill could ban the sale of materials commonly used in fly tying.

Similar bans have been attempted in other states. California became the first state to ban fur sales last year.

SB 6294 would prohibit the sale or trade of any animal skin with hair, fleece or fibers attached, and any clothing product made of fur.

It includes several exemptions from the definition of “fur product,” including animal skins turned into leather, the hides of animals preserved through taxidermy and products containing animal hair, fleece or fur fibers – such as makeup brushes, paint brushes and fishing flies. The provision involving brushes and flies is part of a substitute bill that was drafted shortly before Thursday’s hearing.

It also exempts the sale of used furs and furs obtained through trapping and hunting from the law.

Dan Paul, the Washington state director for the Humane Society, said the bill is about getting rid of the sale of jackets with fur trim or other items with fur that’s imported from places with little oversight on animal cruelty. He added that a number of products are exempted under the bill, and that it allows hunters and trappers to continue their activities.

“This is dealing with imported trim on fur fashion items,” Paul said.

Representatives from several other animal rights groups spoke at the hearing, telling the committee that the state needed to distance itself from the fur farming industry, which they argued treats animals poorly and is responsible for pollution problems.

A representative of the mink farming industry disputed those claims, arguing the industry has stringent standards and benefits the environment by using recycled products for mink feed.

Other opponents raised concerns that the bill appeared to be an attempt to limit hunting and trapping in the state, and that provisions meant to deal with issues around fly tying materials were inadequate.

Marie Neumiller, of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, said it would “undermine trapping as a critical wildlife management tool,” and that there are questions about how the law would interact with other state laws governing trapping.

She also raised concerns that the exemption for the sale of fishing flies doesn’t go far enough. While the new version of the bill explicitly exempts flies, people are concerned that fly tying materials that are typically sold as hair attached to a piece of animal skin may be considered fur products under the bill.

Josh Mills, a well-known fly tier from Spokane, told the committee that there are many materials that are impossible to buy as sets of loose fibers, such as deer, elk and moose hair.

“It’s like asking someone to make coffee without the beans,” Mills said.

Josh Phillips, an owning partner in Spawn Fly Fish, a fly shop in Ilwaco, Washington, told the committee that the bill would be hard on his business, and that retailers like him should be more involved in developing legislation like this.

“What I would love to see is an outcome where we recognize all the stakeholders that are involved in this process,” Phillips said.

If passed, the bill would go into effect in January 2025.

The committee did not immediately vote on the bill.