The Federal Trade Commission has weighed in on a fur fight over what to call garments made from a fuzzy animal with rings around its eyes that is a distant relative of dogs.
Is it an Asiatic Raccoon? That's the term that's been in use since 1961 and is preferred by industry groups.
Or should it be a Raccoon Dog, as the Humane Society of the United States suggests, because that's the scientifically accepted common name for the animal, nyctereutes procyonoides?
The FTC in a Federal Register notice published today backed Asiatic Raccoon, but invited public comments before the rule is final. The FTC has jurisdiction over fur labels under the Fur Products Labeling Act.
What's not in dispute is that the animal is part of the canidae family, which includes foxes, wolves and domestic dogs — not the raccoon family, procyonidae.
For that reason, the Humane Society argued that calling it an Asiatic Raccoon is misleading. "The species is not a raccoon" and "is not just found in Asia, but . . . in numerous European countries," the Humane Society argued at a public hearing in December.
The National Retail Federation and the Fur Information Council of America countered that the animal may be a distant dog relative, but it doesn't even act like a dog — it hibernates, climbs trees, can't bark and doesn't wag its tail. It does, however, have rings around its eyes that make it look like a raccoon.
Using "Raccoon Dog" on a label "would mislead consumers into thinking that the species either was, or was closely related to, domestic dog, thereby harming nyctereutes procyonoides fur sales," they said. Already, Federated Department Stores and Lord & Taylor no longer sell the furs made from the animal because consumers mistake it for domestic dog, according to industry commenters.
The National Retail Federation suggested calling the fur "Tanuki" or "Magnut." The Humane Society objected to both because they are foreign words, not English names.
The Fur Information Council of America, Finnish Fur, and Finland's Ministries for Foreign Affairs and of Agriculture and Forestry suggested labeling nyctereutes procyonoides raised in Finland as "Finnraccoon." The Humane Society opposed the name as "industry-coined."
In the end, the FTC decided to stick with Asiatic Raccoon because "consumers likely have become familiar with the name," which has been in use on fur labels for 50 years. "If the term confused or otherwise harmed consumers, evidence of such confusion should exist," according to theFTC. "The record, however, does not contain any such evidence."