Whitman students fight for dog rights in Olympia
Fighting against the mistreatment of dogs in Washington’s puppy mills, Theresa Edwards and Audrey Long, two seventh-graders from Whitman Middle School have spent two years getting involved in Washington’s legislature to create a bill to protect these neglected animals.
Edwards first wrote to Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles and other 36th District legislators two years ago regarding the issue of puppy mills in Washington State.
As of late January the Seattle Times reported nearly 600 dogs in Snohomish and Skagit counties were seized in raids. The dogs were sick, matted, standing in their own feces and left without food and water. They were deemed to be in need of immediate medical care.
According to the Humane Society, “Puppy mills are breeding facilities that produce purebred puppies in large numbers. Often puppies are sold directly to the public via the Internet, newspaper ads, or at the mill itself. In other cases they are sold to brokers and pet shops across the country.”
Documented problems that arise from puppy mills are overbreeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of human socialization, overcrowded cages and the killing of unwanted animals. These problems can result in consumers purchasing puppies who face immediate veterinary problems or harbor genetic diseases that come about years later, as reported on the Humane Society of the Unites States website.
In January of 2008 Kohl-Welles replied back informing Edwards and Long about the public hearing and first reading of Senate Bill 6408, a “lemon law.” The bill would protect consumers who had unknowingly purchased a sick or dying animal from a pet shop, breeder or directly from a mill.
“It really wasn’t what we were aiming for but we decided that it was a start,” said Edwards. “So we went to Olympia and testified for it. (Bill) 6408 eventually died after making it into the second committee, but that only inspired us further.”
For their efforts in testifying for Bill 6408 both girls were honored and received the annual PAWS Youth Helping Animals Award last April.
With a taste of legislation in their mouths, Edwards took the initiative and wrote again to Representative Reuven Carlyle and Mary Lou Dickerson along with Senator Kohl-Welles urging a bill that would more directly address the conditions inside breeding facilities, said Edwards.
Fortunately, Kohl-Welles informed them about Bill 5651 which she was sponsoring. The Bill was an act pertaining to large-scale dog breeders. It seeks to eliminate “puppy mills” by prohibiting a person from owning, possessing, controlling, or otherwise having charge or custody of more than 25 dogs with intact sexual organs over the age of four months at a time, reported WashingtonVotes.org.
“The bill was actually addressing almost all the things we were fighting for,” said Edwards. “So we were really excited about that, it was definitely what we were looking for.”
Testifying for the bill on Feb. 9 in Olympia, Edwards and Long were prepared with their testimonies but were cut off short with the number of people who were also testifying in support of the bill.
“It was like 12 for it and four against it,” said Long. “We recognized people against it who had testified against Bill 6408 last year.”
The girls are now waiting for the next hearing and are waiting for the house and senate decisions.
“They’ll decide to pass it or pass it as a substitute where they will make a change to it and accommodate to people who testify against it,” said Long.
The girls said they hope the bill will come out successful and hope people understand and support its worth.
“To get people to care, they have to know how horrific the conditions are and how there’s diseases the puppies can get that can harm people,” said Long.
A few tips they advise those who are interested in purchasing a dog are:
-People should get dogs from shelters because even if breeders home raise the animals some may acquire them from puppy mills.
-If they are getting a dog from a breeder they should see where they came from and meet both the mother and father dogs.
-If they see any dogs that are in dirty cages they should never buy it from there.
-If they see bad conditions they should report it to the Humane Society or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
-Do not buy a dog from the pet shop. Animals are placed in small cages and are usually bought from brokers who buy the dogs from puppy mills or are sold directly to the shops from the puppy mills.