Game Wardens Search S.F. Vintage Clothing Shop for Illegal Garments

California Department of Fish and Wildlife game warden Jessica Jacobson searches vintage clothing shop Decades of Fashion in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood on Feb. 25. State and federal wildlife officers executed a search warrant seeking garments made from endangered species, which are illegal to sell. (Courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

California Department of Fish and Wildlife agents were searching a vintage clothing store in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood Thursday afternoon looking for illegal garments made from the carcasses of endangered species.

"We had reports that they were in possession of or selling a prohibited species," CDFW spokesman Andrew Hughan said. "We are in the process of looking through the business to make sure they don’t have anything they aren’t supposed to have."

J.T. Hansen alerted KQED to what he called a "raid" of his mother's clothing store, Decades of Fashion, at the corner of Haight and Belvedere streets. He said he was unaware of state and federal laws prohibiting the sale of certain furs and other products made from endangered animals.

"I had no idea," he said. "Neither did my mom."

Hansen said he doesn't believe Decades of Fashion is selling anything illegal. His mother, Cicely Hansen, was not available for comment.

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"The only thing I can think of is the furs, fur coats and stuff like that, but I know for sure those things are ancient," he said, adding that he believes they predate the laws prohibiting their sale.

Hughan said people can possess furs that predate a 1970 law, but not sell them.

"The state is acting like bullies," Hansen said. He said employees were detained and denied access to their cellphones.

Hughan said store employees were "detained for an interview and then released." The eight CDFW game wardens and three U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service officers conducting the search separated employees from their cellphones "while the building was being cleared to make sure it's safe," he said.

"The employees were great," he said.

Hughan said business owners are responsible for knowing what garments could be illegal to sell. The California penal code prohibits importing or possessing for sale "the dead body, or any part or product thereof, of any polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable, antelope, wolf (Canis lupus), zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise (Delphinidae), Spanish lynx or elephant."

"I can't get into what we're actually looking for at the moment," Hughan said. "There are species that are not allowed to be possessed. if they have them, we will seize them and then we'll charge them."

As of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, game wardens had found several pieces of evidence, Hughan said, and the search would continue for several hours. Store owners will likely face a fine.