Walmart briefly sold a puppy play mask online in its Halloween costumes category and is being accused of stealing the design from an independent fetish gear creator.
The pup hood, which was in the Party & Occasions >Halloween Costumes >Animal Costumes category, looks uncannily similar San Francisco fetish gear maker Mr. S Leather, who specializes in puppy play masks.
Kink content creator Pup Amp spotted the product page and posted it to Twitter on Monday, but according to the sole review dated October 9, it's been up for longer than that.
A spokesperson for Mr. S Leather told me it came to their attention when Pup Amp tagged them in that thread.
"At first, we thought it was a joke but after closer inspection learned it was real. It was disheartening to see puppy play become so mainstream and to see blatant copies on a site like Walmart," Brian Murdy, marketing director for Mr. S Leather, said. "Puppy play is a part of the fetish scene and Walmart is the antithesis of fetish. It made it feel like puppy play was becoming watered down and less special."
Listed as a "Padded Latex Rubber Role Play Dog Mask Puppy Cosplay Full Head+Ears 10 Colors," the product was listed at $29.99 and according to the details, was made of spandex and CR rubber. "Great for your sub," the description stated.
The retailer might seem like the antithesis of fetish, but Walmart actually sells a lot of fetish gear online, including BDSM gear like ball gags, whips, and bondage tape—as well as sex toys in its brick and mortar stores.
Where it goes sideways is when Walmart's e-commerce algorithm slots those items in with otherwise innocuous products, like this page that tosses sex swings in with a patio swing, bird cage toys and a toddler's playhouse. I navigated here specifically from the "sex furniture" category on the "bondage and fetish wear" section.
Murdy said that their original Neoprene Puppy Hood design launched in 2016, after an internal research and development process and years of tweaking it to suit customers.
"A good deal of blood, sweat and tears went into the creation of these hoods so it is always sad to see someone knock off our original design," he said. Their neoprene versions start at $109 and leather hoods go up to $380 for customized pieces.
Now, it's all over the internet, selling for as low as Walmart's $30 version. There's a very similar knockoff hood on e-commerce platforms Wish and AliExpress, as well as Amazon.
"There have been a number of knock-offs entering the market from Chinese manufacturers. While they look extremely similar, they don’t compare to our workmanship," Murdy said. "Luckily the puppy community is a strong supporter of ours and helps be our voice when matters like this come up."