An animal-rights group protesting the use of dog hair to line ski boots picketed in front of an Annapolis ski shop Saturday, though the store has stopped selling the footwear because of the aggravation.

But protesters from Maryland Legislation for Animal Welfare said it didn't matter that Ski Haus Sports Center on U.S. 50 no longer carriesthe product they are angry about.

"At least we can get the message out," said Bill McFadden, who refused to say where he lived. "If they aren't in the store, they were in the store. This will get the message out to people who know nothing about the issue."

And managers of the sports store took the demonstration in stride.

"I think they know we get a lot of people shopping here," said Lee Cerasani, store manager. "They want to get heard, get some attention."

The controversy started last month when animal-rights activists targeted several Washington-area stores that sold the boots, which are lined with Chinese dog fur. One Washington store decided to stop selling the boots and sent them back to the New Hampshire-based manufacturer, Tecnica.

The company says the hair used in its boots is a byproduct of the Chinese food industry.

"We are certainly confident that the animals are killed in an appropriate way," said John Stahler, Tecnica president. "It is comparable to the way animals are killed for meat in this country."

Cerasani said her store sold several pairs of the dog-fur lined boots. About five pairs, she said, were returned to the company.

"We had a few left, and we returned those. We took Tecnica's information. They are a good company. There are a couple of ways to look at it. We just don't want the aggravation."

She said the store still sells boots lined with calfskin and other types of animal fur, adding that it is hard to substantiate exactly how the dog fur boots are made.

"How can you corroborate that?" she said. "If we trust the source, and the source is satisfied, I don't know what we can do about it."

But the protesters disagreed and said the dogs are killed violently as part of China's dog-eradication program.

"We don't think dogs should be used forfood," said Diane Nixon, a protest organizer. "We are talking about domestic animals. Most civilized countries do not serve dogs as a meal. Certainly we don't do it in this country."

State Del. Dana Dembrow, D-Silver Spring, agreed. He sponsored a bill Thursday that wouldoutlaw using any part of a dog or cat for food or any manufactured goods.

He cited a recent "60 Minutes" report that said slave labor is responsible for many goods made for export. He said he sees a difference between using leather that comes from cows and using fur that comes from dogs.

"Just because they come from outside this country, I don't think it is sufficient reason to slaughter domestic animals."

But some shoppers who paused to watch the protest had differentopinions. Some said it was fine to use the fur as long as the dogs were killed for food.

"I don't see it as any different than us using leather for shoes," said Marty Hayes of Cape St. Claire.

Jerry Jeansonne, who lives in Arnold, said he just wants to ensure the animals are killed humanely.

"I am not opposed to using fur in clothing," he said.

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