The Story of Project Puppy Mills

We got started in March of 2007 as fifth graders having a playdate. We decided to write a letter to send to our state representatives and senator telling them about the issue of puppy mills in Washington state, hoping for them to support or introduce a bill regarding breeding facilities that would set higher standards for animal care in these places. The two representatives replied kindly but made no commitments. However, Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles gave us a promising answer. She said that by that time, it was too late in the 2007 session for anything to be introduced, but that she would try again next year.

In February 2008, we found out that there was to be a senate hearing in the state capitol about a bill that was introduced by Senator Kohl-Welles, SB 6408. It was a "lemon law", intended to protect consumers if they had unknowingly purchased an animal that was sick. It was not exactly what we were hoping for, but it was a start, so we made a quick decision to travel to Olympia the next day and testify in support of the bill. We had no notes or prepared testimonies, and improvising in front of a full hearing room (especially with a King5 camera in your face) is easier said than done! It was our first taste of the legislative process.

That April, we were both honored with the PAWS Youth Helping Animals award in Seattle. Although SB 6408 died in the second committee, our hope for humane legislation was not extinguished with it! In late December last year, we outlined a plan of action. This year, we decided, was the year we were going to succeed. We were not going to give up without a fight. We were going to help get a law passed! While Audrey continued with research, Theresa wrote a persuasive letter that explained the issue of puppy mills in Washington and specified exactly what requirements we wanted in the law to help reform them. We sent them again to our district senator (Kohl-Welles) and representatives, along with the governor. Once the session started, we were notified of SB 5651, "providing humanitarian requirements for certain dog breeding practices". Incredibly, it addressed every single issue the letter had included, plus more!! We were thrilled. We returned to Olympia to testify again before the senate rules committee. We checked the status of the bill daily, writing letters and calling the senator's office. Finally, it was sent to the senate floor for a vote. It passed!

SB 5651 then went through the same process in the house. We testified again before the house rules committee, and made a presentation to a fifth-grade class at our elementary school. Now that it was halfway to becoming a law, we worked harder than ever writing letters and emails to the representatives. The bill had to pass in the house!

Everyone's hard work paid off, and an amended SB 5651 passed in the house and was sent back to the senate for a final vote. The senate had to approve the changes made to the bill while it was deliberated in the house. Desperate for the bill to pass, we made calls to each and every Washington state senator asking them to support SB 5651 when it was time for a vote. At last, in April, it passed the senate for the second time. It was going to become a law!

The bill was signed by the respective leaders and sent to the governor for approval. On April 30, 2009, we watched as Governor Gregoire signed the bill into law at a special ceremony. It was a very proud moment of our lives. After those two years, it was truly our dream come true.

The law took effect January 1, 2010. We have decided to continue our project, now focusing mainly on the crucial education of the public about puppy mills and the consequences of mass breeding facilities. We made brochures and handed them out at a small fundraiser we had to raise money for the local PAWS animal shelter, and are planning to make more presentations at our old elementary school. We are currently working on improving our website to educate the public and inspire others to take action on puppy mills and other animal issues.

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