When Theresa Edwards and Audrey Long of Seattle found out about the awful conditions in puppy mills they decided they had to do something. Theresa and Audrey were in 5th grade at that time and they pursued the issue all the way through the Washington State lawmaking process.
What is a puppy mill? A puppy mill is a term used to describe a place that breeds dogs for sale without concern for the dogs’ health or happiness. These dogs are often kept in small cages without proper exercise, nutrition, or medical care. Sometimes they are left outside in below freezing weather. These dogs can be in poor health when they are sent to pet stores to be sold.
Theresa and Audrey had just learned in school about how any person could help influence the laws made in their state. They wrote letters to their state representatives and senator asking to introduce a bill that would required better standards at large dog breeding farms. Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles responded and told them she would help. In 2008, Senator Kohl-Welles introduced a bill designed to protect consumers who bought sick animals. Theresa and Audrey went to the state capital in Olympia and testified. They didn’t have any time to prepare and were nervous but they did it!
Unfortunately that bill did not become law but that didn’t stop the tweens! They did more research and came up with ideas for that focused not just on protecting customers but addressed the problems for the dogs in the puppy mills. They wrote a second letter to their legislature detailing puppy care concerns such as cage space, food and water and medical care. Senator Kohl-Welles once again helped by introducing a new bill based on the girls’ letter.
Theresa and Audrey testified in front of their state House and Senate committees. They campaigned with letters and phone calls to every member of the committees. The bill passed! The girls watched as Govenor Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law in April of 2009.
Btweens had an opportunity to ask Theresa a few questions.
Btweens: What was the toughest part of getting this legislation passed?
Theresa: It was really hard waiting and wondering if anything was going to happen. It took almost 2 years for this to become a law. But the scariest part was testifying. The first time we only had one day notice so we didn’t have notes and we just got up there. The next time we had more time to prepare but it was still difficult to keep our composure and not be afraid in front of all those official people.
Btweens: It seems like Senator Kohl-Wells was really helpful to you.
Btweens: What is your advice to other tweens who are passionate about a cause?
Theresa: Don’t ever give up! Never believe you are too small or too young or too anything to make a change. Make a plan and get help from your family and friends.
Btweens: Thank you Theresa and Audrey – you provide a great example to young people everywhere that even if you are “just a kid” you can achieve great things!
And thank you Senator Kohl-Welles for supporting the effort of these compassionate tweens!
For more information, check out the website Theresa and Audrey created themselves projectpuppymills.kk5.org