When American consumers shop for leather goods, it probably doesn’t enter their minds that their new belts, bags or shoes could be made not from cows or pigs but from cats and dogs. But not only is it a possibility, it’s hard for consumers to know what they have been sold.
Almost all that dog or cat leather comes from China. Now changes in Chinese culture, more pressure from the US and an upcoming trade agreement are combining to undermine this contraband trade.
The US banned the importation of dog and cat fur and skin, which is punishable by fines up to $10,000, as part of the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000. But distinguishing dog and cat leather from cow, sheep and pig leather is no easy matter, making it possible for unscrupulous manufacturers to pass off leather from dogs as leather from legal animals. A report by the Congressional Research Service shows that in 2014, the US imported $8.5bn in leather articles from China. It is unknown how much of each year’s total might be dog or cat leather.