Are you a serious animal advocate, committed to providing safe homes for rescue pets rather than expanding markets for purebred ones? Well, now you can walk your talk while you walk your dog – and support a locally based business while you’re at it.
The company is called Found My Animal, and it started life in Brooklyn in 2007, co-founded by Bethany Obrecht and Anna Conway. The two friends first met on the street as they walked rescue chihuahuas, both named Walter. Together they began designing high-end leashes made with marine-grade rope, brass and waxed canvas. Their nautical-style hand-spliced leads caught the eyes of many fashion-conscious pet-owners, and before long they were manufacturing them on a growing scale. Obrecht eventually acquired full ownership of their company and moved it upstate in 2018.
At the time they met, Obrecht, a Baltimore native with a Photography degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, was working in production and wardrobe in the advertising industry. In her spare time, she says, “I was fostering dogs in New York City, volunteering at a shelter, photographing dogs that needed adoption.” She gestures around the cavernous 7,000-square-foot factory floor at 86 Smith Avenue in Midtown Kingston that is now Found My Animal’s headquarters. “By doing this, I could amplify my voice by putting messaging on the products.”
Indeed, every Found My Animal leash bears a brass tag inscribed with a number and the word “Found,” which Obrecht refers to as “our mantra.” On the day Hudson Valley One paid a visit, the items manufactured had counted up to more than 197,000 items – each one representing someone’s furry friend who’d been taken off the streets and given a forever home.
A percentage of all sales is donated to animal welfare and rescue organizations, with certain product lines dedicated specifically to fundraising. A special event on February 11, hosted by the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce, celebrated the Grand Opening of the factory’s storefront, with 15 percent of all proceeds from purchases donated to the Ulster County SPCA.
The small showroom is open for business daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., displaying a representative selection of Found My Animal products; but the real action opens up when you pass through the back of the room into the factory itself. It’s rather like one of those spy movies where a modest storefront is revealed to be the secret gateway to the bustling headquarters of some gigantic espionage network.
Long, long tables extend from the front to the back of the former D & J Plumbing Supply building, freshly renovated since Obrecht bought it in 2021. Sewing machines are lined up along one wall, industrial sinks serving as dye baths along the other. In the rear, banks of fans are trained on dyed lengths of rope hung on tall racks to dry.
The number of employees varies seasonally with demand, according to Obrecht, but at present she has 18 employees. They’ve been working steadily for nearly a year on an order for thousands of pieces, destined to end up in the 700-or-so Petco stores for a May product line launch. “Right now we’re in the final stages of production,” Obrecht says. “Everything is done by hand. We’ve been in full swing since we got the material deliveries in November.”
Some of the workers are braiding cotton ropes using traditional techniques used by sailors throughout the world. The ends are spliced and “whipped” using “old-fashioned waxed twine,” Obrecht points out, or hammered flat on an “old tree stump” for insertion into a leather sleeve. Some workers are stitching the leather, others pounding in rivets or attaching the brass hang tags, rings and hooks. Everything is low-tech. Obrecht is committed to sourcing her materials domestically, proudly citing her suppliers who have been making things the old-fashioned way for decades or even centuries.
For all the pre-Industrial Revolution manufacturing methods, however, the finished products are fashion-forward, and might even be fairly described as “bespoke.” They come in a wide range of color palettes, from neutrals to neon solid colors to muted ombres and rainbow tie-dyes. A brass “jump-ring” is strategically spliced into each leash at a point where it can be attached to a hook and worn hands-free across the body. It’s a trendy look adopted by celebrities including actress Amanda Seyfried, says Obrecht. “And in July, Justin Theroux came in and dyed leashes with us. He donated 600 leashes to the Humane Society.”
Retailers that carry Found My Animal products have included Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Healthy Spot in California and Daylesford Organic in London, plus outlets in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. “We’ve done countless awareness campaigns. Awareness is especially needed in Asia. It’s all about turning a passion project into a business, teaching other people a craft and creating lots of jobs – mostly for women,” she says. “Found My Animal is supporting a super-positive message, while also supporting being handcrafted in the US.”
To view the company’s full line of “accessories for adopted animals and their people” – which also include clothing for both dogs and humans – visit www.foundmyanimal.com or www.facebook.com/foundmyanimal.