Fashion designer and animal lover Kimberly Ovitz is currently focusing her philanthropic efforts on dogs
While searching for a dog of her own, LA-born fashion designer Kimberly Ovitz (daughter of CAA founder and former president of The Walt Disney Company Michael Ovitz) became painfully aware of how overcrowded animal shelters are and how little money there is to support them. “The more I learned, the more I realized how unaware people are,” she says. “I wanted to make a difference.”
To that end, Ovitz decided take action and put her talents to good use: She made shirts for The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), donated a $3,000 clothing package to be auctioned off at one of the organization’s events and gave a portion of the proceeds from her sample sales to the group. She could have stopped there, but this daughter of a media mogul wanted to do more. “I wanted to be hands-on and not just write a check,” she says. “It makes me happy to be able to get a dog out of his cage for a walk. It’s so fulfilling.” For the past six months, Ovitz has volunteered for Animal Haven (a NY-area nonprofit that finds homes for abandoned cats and dogs) and is now taking the extra step of hosting a 150-person invitation-only event October 19 at her father’s LA home to benefit the ASPCA.
Ovitz with her English bulldogs, Matza Ball and Lox
Models in the ASPCA T-shirts Ovitz designed
What prompted you to use your collection to bring attention to the plight of animals? KIMBERLY OVITZ: I’ve always loved animals, and having started my own company, I found a way to leverage things so I could draw attention to animals through the fashion world and make more of an impact.
What made you want to be involved with the ASPCA? KO:I started by volunteering at a few places. I was disturbed to see animals were being killed just because of lack of space and felt it was totally inhumane. Seeing the shelters firsthand can be very emotional and difficult—there are dogs with their ears cut off, dogs that are covered in ticks or have no hair and dogs that are painfully skinny and have broken bones. We see a lot of neglect and inhumane treatment of these poor, sweet helpless creatures. People adopt purebreds, but they don’t realize how wonderful animals living in shelters are.
Tell us about your pets. KO:I have two English bulldogs, Matza Ball and Lox, which I bought online before getting involved in shelter work. As much as I love them, I regret not rescuing, because the ones I’ve rescued for family and friends are the most loving, amazing dogs. I also fostered a shepherd mix that’s since been adopted by a friend. My place is too small to have any more, but I would if I could.
What’s the best way to start volunteering at animal shelters? KO:Get on the Web and search for your local shelters—they all have unique programs in terms of orientations and training. Some are definitely more involved than others. There is also a website called dogsindanger.com that gives the euthanization date of dogs in local shelters and is a good place to go to adopt or save dogs by transferring them to a no-kill shelter like the ASPCA.
What does the process of adopting an animal entail? KO:In the ASPCA’s Meet Your Match program, they do a behavioral assessment and color code the dog according to traits like friendliness, playfulness and energy level; that way, whether you’re a couch potato or a runner, you can easily find one that complements your lifestyle. You can also go to your local shelter and pick up a dog for a small fee. That’s what I did for my mom: I went to a South Central LA shelter and saved a dog that was going to be killed that day. Finally, if you’re looking for a specific breed, Google it, because there are usually rescues for the breed you’re looking for. For example, there are loads of bulldog rescues.
What is your ultimate goal in terms of your work with animals? KO:Right now I focus on a few animal groups—The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and Animal Haven—and do as much as I can for them. I am learning how to help even more, so one day I can have my own [charity]. With the money I make from my clothing company, I’m hoping I can eventually start a nonprofit for animals, create my own shelter and donate money and space to shelters in need.
Your ASPCA benefit is this month. Invited guests have the opportunity to buy tickets for a private tour of your father’s art collection, which will be held prior to the event. What can they expect? KO:He collects contemporary and modern art. I grew up around it and have found it inspiring. And while the event is by invitation only, anyone can go to the ASPCA website to make a donation.