Are you a serious animal advocate, committed to providing safe homes for pets rather than expanding markets for purebred animals? Well, now you can talk while you walk your dog – and support a local business while you’re at it.
The company is called Found My Animal and started in Brooklyn in 2007, co-founded by Bethany Obrecht and Anna Conway. The two friends first met on the street while walking rescue Chihuahuas, both named Walter. Together, they began designing high-end leashes made with marine-grade rope, brass, and oilcloth. Their hand-spliced, nautical-style leashes caught the eye of many fashion-conscious pet owners, and before long they were making them on an increasing scale. Obrecht eventually acquired full ownership of their business and moved it north in 2018.
At the time they met, Obrecht, a Baltimore native with a degree in photography 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, volunteering at a shelter, photographing dogs that needed adoption.” She gestures around the cavernous 7,000 square foot factory at 86 Smith Avenue in Midtown Kingston, which is now the headquarters of Found My Animal. “By doing this, I could amplify my voice by putting messages on the products.”
Indeed, each Found My Animal leash has a brass tag bearing a number and the word “Found”, which Obrecht calls “our mantra”. day Hudson Valley 1 visited, the artifacts numbered more than 197,000 items – each one depicting someone’s furry friend who had been taken off the streets and given a forever home.
A percentage of all sales are donated to animal welfare and rescue organisations, with some product lines specifically dedicated to fundraising. A special event on February 11, hosted by the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce, celebrated the grand opening of the factory storefront, with 15% of all proceeds from purchases donated to the County SPCA Ulster.
The small showroom is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and features a representative selection of Found My Animal products; but the real action opens up when you cross the back of the room into the factory itself. It’s a bit like one of those spy movies where a modest storefront turns out to be the secret door to the bustling headquarters of a gigantic spy ring.
Very long tables stretch 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 along a wall, industrial sinks serving as dye baths along the other. Out back, shoals of fans are trained on lengths of dyed rope hung on tall racks to dry.
The number of employees fluctuates seasonally based on demand, according to Obrecht, but it currently has 18 employees. They have been working steadily for nearly a year on an order of thousands of pieces, destined to end up in all of Petco’s 700 or so stores for the launch of a product line in May. “Right now we are in the final stages of production,” says Obrecht. ” Everything is handmade. We have been in full swing since receiving the hardware deliveries in November.
Some of the workers weave cotton ropes using traditional techniques used by sailors around the world. The ends are spliced and “whipped” using “old-fashioned waxed twine”, Obrecht points out, or hammered flat on an “old tree stump” to be inserted into a leather sheath. Some workers sew the leather, others hammer the rivets or attach the hang tags, rings and brass hooks. Everything is low tech. Obrecht is committed to sourcing materials domestically, proudly citing its suppliers who have been making things the old-fashioned way for decades, if not centuries.
However, for all pre-industrial revolution manufacturing methods, the finished products are state of the art and could even be aptly described as “bespoke”. They come in a wide range of color palettes, from neutrals to neon solids to muted shadows 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 on the body. It’s a trending look embraced by celebrities including actress Amanda Seyfried, says Obrecht. “And in July, Justin Theroux came over and dyed leashes with us. He donated 600 leashes to the Humane Society.
Retailers that carry Found My Animal products include Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Healthy Spot in California and Daylesford Organic in London, as well as outlets in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. “We have done countless awareness campaigns. Awareness is particularly needed in Asia. It’s 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 supports a super positive message, while supporting handmade craftsmanship in the USA.”
To see the company’s full line of “accessories for adopted animals and their people” — which also includes dog and human clothing — visit www.foundmyanimal.com Or www.facebook.com/foundmyanimal.