I've always been an animal lover: It's in my blood. My great-grandfather William Randolph Hearst has his own zoo. (Hello, polar bears and zebras!) My mom now lives on a farm with chickens, ducks, and geese. Given the current locavore craze, that may not sound so exotic. But her alpacas and emus? Not exactly your average household pets. Thanks to my family, loving and respecting animals is all I've ever known. But it wasn't until an adorable dachshund/Chihuahua mix melted my heart that I felt compelled to take on the fight for animal rights.
Three years ago, I bought my dog, Finnegan, at a pet store in New York City. I know what you're thinking: Why not adopt from a shelter? It's true, adoption is ideal, but one glance at Finn and I was done—you can't help who, or what, you love. Sure, I'd heard the stats: More than 90 percent of pet store dogs are from puppy mills, those notorious facilities where female dogs are bred until they die and animals are forced to live in cramped, crippling crates. But the shopkeeper told me Finn was from a trusted, loving breeder, even giving me his family tree. Well, that was a lie. With help from the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), I did research into Finn's background and learned that he was, in fact, among that 90 percent. Even worse, his mother was still there and likely never to get out.
That's when I formed the HSUS' Friends of Finn (FOF), a group that raises money and awareness to end the billion-dollar puppy mill industry in this country. Two years, more than a half a million dollars raised, and several puppy mill raids later, I'm excited to debut our first fashion collaboration: special-edition Soludos espadrilles to benefit FOF. The one-of-a-kind pattern, which I helped design, consists of tiny dog bones, a nod to the cause. And they're unisex. I only wish my great-grandfather had had a pair to wear to the zoo.