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Brookline teen helps pass Town Meeting animal fur ban

Ezra Kleinbaum, 14, with his 6-year-old wheaten terrier, Zisha.Courtesy of Ezra Kleinbaum

Brookline Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to ban the sale of new animal furs on Wednesday, with the effort by 14-year-old Ezra Kleinbaum a local animal-lover and activist who came up with the idea.

“I’ve always loved animals, and over the last year or so I’ve been getting increasingly more involved with activism,” said Kleinbaum, who is too young to vote in town elections. “So when I heard that Weston and Wellesley had banned the sale of fur, I thought that would be a great thing to get done in Brookline.”

He reached out to his eighth grade social studies teacher to find out how he could pass a similar ban in Brookline.

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“I love my dog very much, I couldn’t imagine anyone turning him into a fur coat,” Kleinbaum said of his 6-year-old wheaten terrier Zisha. “So I was thinking about that and looking into it, when I realized how bad fur is for the environment.”

Kleinbaum, who is now a freshman at Brookline High School, looked up the Wellesley and Weston fur ban bylaws online. “ I took that language and adapted it to Brookline,” he said. “And the rest is history.

Kleinbaum enlisted the support of town meeting members and co-petitioners Shira Hannah Fischer, Jonathan Klein, and Jonathan Davis, who worked together to ensure the bylaw’s passage.

After about 40 minutes of debate, the bylaw passed 170-34 at a special town meeting on Dec. 1.

The bylaw includes exemptions for the sale of used furs, leather and shearling, and fur products intended for religious, cultural, or spiritual uses. Wellesley and Weston have both passed similar bylaws in the past year, with Wellesley already receiving approval to implement the ban by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

Brookline’s by-law is awaiting Healey’s approval.

Fischer and Kleinbaum described the fur ban as preventative, as there are not currently any retailers in Brookline that sell new animal furs.

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“Brookline has taken a stance of being pretty proactive about these kinds of issues,” Fischer said. “Simply suggesting people not do things, like not using plastic bags or not selling fur, is less effective than passing a law making it easier to do the right thing and harder to do the wrong thing. We passed a law banning plastic bags because they’re bad for the environment. Policy is what really changes behavior. This law is in line with that.”

The fur ban was mostly met with support, Kleinbaum said, gaining endorsement from organizations like the Massachusetts chapter of the Humane Society and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). But some residents disagreed on its necessity, noting it would not impact any existing businesses and may push away future retailers.

“We want businesses to see a town where there is ease of entry and growth into our community, not one that sets up roadblocks, restrictions, and frivolous laws that scare off or deter businesses from setting up in Brookline,” said resident Mark Miller.

Others argued animal furs are no longer a necessity, and so the sale of these products should be prevented.

“A hundred years ago, furs kept people warm. They served a role in society that has since been replaced,” said select board member Miriam Aschkenasy. “Just like the cell phone has replaced the landline, and the landline replaced the telegraph, fur no longer serves a purpose that cannot be filled by another product, and the cultivation of fur is inhumane.”

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Katie Redefer can be reached at katie.redefer@globe.com.