California May Block Ban on Exotic Skins

LOS ANGELES — Legislation to outlaw the sale of products made of crocodile and alligator skins that was slated to take effect next year in California may soon be reversed.

Bill SB 609, sponsored by state Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, unanimously passed out of committee on April 28 and will now move to a floor vote, though no date has been set. The bill amends penal code 653o, which would make the sale of alligator and crocodile products illegal as of Jan. 1, 2010.

“Continuing the legal and sustainable alligator and crocodile product trade in California means job opportunities for people and growth opportunities for businesses,” Hollingsworth wrote in an e-mail to Footwear News. “It’s important to keep California’s marketplace open to these products. This trade has been an important part of maintaining economic incentives for the protection of important wetland habitat of these species as well.”

Though the bill is widely expected to pass, it is opposed by California’s Political Action Committee for Animals, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and the California Federation for Animal Legislation.

For their part, footwear retailers downplayed the significance of the outcome, citing low consumer demand for footwear made from the controversial skins.

“People are trying to be a little more eco-conscious — at least that’s what we’re seeing in our store,” said Robyne Wilson, co-owner of Footcandy in L.A.’s tony Brentwood neighborhood. “I actually don’t carry any exotic skins in the store. We don’t get that kind of demand for them.”

Stanley Silver, owner of Los Angeles-based Fred Segal Feet, agreed. “We have it for show-and-tell, but we don’t do a tremendous job with it,” he said. “I don’t think [the bill] is a big deal, at least for us.”

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