The United States Court of International Trade recently overturned a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) denial of a protest, in which Quaker Pet Group, LLC contested CBP’s classification of its pet carriers. The five pet carriers at issue in Quaker Pet Group, LLC v. United States, Slip Op. 18-9 (Ct’ Intl. Trade 2018) are used to carry cats, dogs or other pets and are made of mesh and cloth. CBP classified the carriers under Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) subheading 4202.92.30, a provision which covers “travel, sport and similar bags” made of textile material that are designed for “carrying clothing and other personal effects during travel.”

In a decision that cited, among other sources, former President Harry Truman’s remark “{i}f you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” the Court found that because pets are not clothing, the ability for the carriers to fall under the HTSUS heading 4202 rested on whether pets are “personal effects.” Relying on precedent from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Avenues In Leather Inc. v. United States, 423 F.3d 1326, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2005), which stated that “the common characteristic or unifying purposes of goods in heading 4202 consist{s} of organizing, storing, protecting, and carrying various items,” the Court determined that pets are not “personal effects” because “pets are living beings, and thus not things or items.” Further, that the distinction between animate and inanimate objects was critical to the classification of the pet carriers at issue, as all “goods listed in heading 4202 are designed to contain inanimate objects and not living beings.” Accordingly, the Court held that the pet carriers were excluded from heading 4202 as a matter of law, because the primary purpose of the pet carriers’ is to carry pets and not items.

The Court also refrained from ruling on the proper classification for the pet carriers, finding that the record was not sufficiently developed for such a determination. Reflecting this absence of evidence, the Court scheduled further proceedings to address the issue in the upcoming months.