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One day in 2006, Bethany Obrecht was taking her rescue Chihuahua, Walter, for a stroll on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn, New York when she came across another woman doing the same — walking a rescue Chihuahua named Walter. It was a serendipitous moment equal to that experienced by John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity but with far fewer contrivances. The pair decided fate was not to be ignored and soon created Found My Animal, a brand committed to advocating for animal adoption through chic handmade products. “We wanted to show how adopting a dog is life-changing and the shelter system needed an avenue for promotion,” Obrecht remembers.
Today, Obrecht operates as the sole founder and overseer of the business, but she never lost sight of the mission inspired by the two Walters. In fact, the brand’s initial product remains its most popular. Made entirely in Obrecht’s home, it was a three-strand domestically spun rope leash that was whipped and spliced by hand with two O-rings allowing for several styles and purposes. The idea was to create a pet accessory that was equal parts practical and fashionable to encourage conversations around animal adoption.
“It was meant to be worn multiple ways so that people could literally walk around the streets of New York City and show off their accessory with their rescue dogs,” Obrecht explains. She hoped that when a bystander would compliment the leash, the pet parent could respond with some variation of, “It’s Found My Animal, a brand that’s dedicated to promoting animal adoption. I adopted my dog, and if you haven’t adopted before, give it a try,” she adds.
A Leash Worthy of Fashion Week
But those conversations can only begin with a product that is truly eye-catching, something Obrecht was acutely aware of. So when designing the rope leash, she knew it had to be worthy of the runway. “We created probably one of the first leashes that was a statement leash in the sense that you knew it was a wearable and adjustable object that could be seen as a fashion accessory,” Obrecht says. And it didn’t go unnoticed. Found My Animal’s signature leash has since been featured on The Martha Stewart Show and The Kelly Clarkson Show, as well as a fully realized runway appearance for Nicholas K.
Each leash is also stamped with a “FOUND” patch, which has become a staple of the brand and present on all their products. The moniker is meant to invoke the deep emotional bond that develops between rescue animals and pet parents. As Obrecht puts it, “It’s about the synergy between a person and finding a rescue pet, the connection between the rescue pet and the person that adopted that rescue pet. It’s almost as if who adopted who.”
Obrecht estimates that over 300,000 Found My Animal leashes have been sold to date. Over the past fifteen-plus years, the brand has continually upgraded its catalog to include a slew of dog products from bowls and toys to collars and harnesses to various pet clothes. Found My Animal has collaborated with Justin Theroux and major retailers (check out their collab with Petco.) Through it all, Obrecht has maintained her original mission to support animal adoption. “There’s so much emotion that goes into rescuing a pet for both the rescue pet and the person that decides to rescue and it’s super fulfilling to do that,” she says.
Rescue Is at the Heart of the Mission
Found My Animal’s website even has a page dedicated to shelter dogs currently looking for homes and it frequently posts calls for adoption on social media. Beyond that, a portion of all proceeds goes toward rescue organizations and animal welfare groups. It’s a gesture that has — thankfully — become fairly commonplace in the commercial pet space. But when Found My Animal first started giving back in the early aughts, it was far from standard. Unsurprisingly, it’s a business model Obrecht is more than happy to share.
“I think it’s great, and I love that we were in the forefront of that. Found My Animal has done such an amazing, incredible job inspiring other people to help in some sort of way,” she says before adding that the increased prevalence of people talking about or sharing their stories of rescue dogs on Instagram and other social platforms has also been a massive benefit to adoption advocacy.
The Future of Found My Animal
In recent years, Obrecht moved Found My Animal operations to a warehouse in Kingston, New York. Despite leaving the borough where Found My Animal was born, she still hasn’t wavered on that initial promise bred on Atlantic Avenue. Now, armed with a team of like-minded individuals, Obrecht continues to raise the bar on Found My Animal’s advocacy reach. With products sold internationally from Japan to Australia, she continues to get the word out on the urgent need for animal adoption across the globe — never once faltering on quality.
“The products are still made pretty much the same exact way as when I made them in my house when we started,” Obrecht says. “We’ve just scaled up. I’ve taught very talented women each piece of the process and we’re making products more beautifully than ever.”
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Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.