People of the pack: step inside a pet store that gives back
Check out their leashes made from recycled rock-climbing rope.
Do you know that slight pang of guilt as your pup tears apart their toy of the week? It can quickly disappear when you realize just how much fun they’re having. But what if you could turn those scraps into a sustainable, new plushy for your pup?
That’s where Jennifer Wong and Santos Agustin, co-founders of Gone to the Dogs, can help. They own an ethical dog store in Brooklyn, New York, selling products made from biodegradable or recyclable materials by women artisans from marginalized communities.
Some of the brand’s female makers are based in a small Peruvian town with few work opportunities. Creating hand-knit sweaters for Gone to the Dogs enables them to have a consistent job where they can provide their families with better food and send their children to school.
While some of the store’s products are made abroad, Santos and Jennifer use their professional fashion experience to make around 30% of their merchandise from recycled materials found in their community.
“For our walk-wear, we collaborate with local rock climbing gyms and collect rope that would inevitably end up in landfills,” Santos says. “From there, we clean it, prepare it and then make our real product out of it. It’s a huge recycling program for us.”
Santos and Jennifer also offer felting workshops where they teach people how to sew toys from recycled wool (usually that pet parents bring in themselves).
“It's very educational in the sense that they understand the creative process for an item that may be considered a commodity, what it takes to make it and how much love actually goes into it because everybody has a great time at this workshop,” Santos explains.
Gone to the Dogs’ well-rounded success (from its community outreach to its environmental initiatives) was impacted by the co-founders’ experience in other industries and inspiration from their own pets. After rescuing their dogs, Ollie and Miles, around the same time, Jennifer and Santos decided to start a business inspired by their love for their pets.
“Coming from a fashion corporate design background, we know that there's a lot of non-transparency out there and a lot of unethical ways pet products are being made and manufactured,” Jennifer says. “We set out to design and produce our products in all transparency and in a way that we felt good and proud of what we're putting out there.”
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But right as Jennifer and Santos planned to launch their line, the 2020 pandemic hit. The two had to decide whether to postpone or continue to embark on their journey.
“We felt like, ‘Well, if we don't do it now, I don't know when we'll be able to.’ So there was so much uncertainty,” Jennifer shares. “Santos was literally turning her apartment into a workshop and making products. So it was a lot of trial and error. We tested a lot of the products, and we're still getting a lot of feedback from customers.”
The pair has come a long way, growing their merchandise, selling leashes, harnesses, waste bag holders, toys, clothes and beds. And, as both rescue parents and pet lovers, they host regular adoption events in their store (where usually all of the pets get adopted!).
And even though Gone to The Dogs continues to make a sustainable and helpful global and local impact, Jennifer and Santos credit their support systems for helping them along the way.
“It was really important to get feedback from people to understand what they needed and be flexible and open-minded about what they needed,” Jennifer says. “So we've evolved our product around that.”
To check out Gone to The Dogs’ products and get involved, visit the store or attend a felting workshop. If you can’t make it into the store, follow them on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube to stay updated on their upcoming products and events.
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Photo by Jennifer Wong and Santos Agustin