Three Arlington Heights girls who lobbied state legislators in March about strengthening state law that punishes puppy mill owners will be on hand Saturday when Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill into law.
Claire Hackmann, Brooke Martin and Maddie O'Dell have been waiting all summer for the signing of House Bill 4410, which amends the state's Animal Welfare Act. It will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at PAWS Chicago, the city's largest no-kill animal shelter, located at 1997 N. Clybourn Ave.
"It really seemed to take a long time, but we're so excited it's finally being signed into law," Maddie said.
The new bill increases the penalty for mistreatment of animals in the state to $500 for the first offense -- up from $200, with larger penalties for subsequent offenses.
"People who are found guilty of operating puppy mills will not be able to keep operating them," Claire said, "because they don't earn enough money to pay the fine."
The bill regulates the "transportation, sale, and handling of dogs, cats, and certain other animals" as well as requiring that puppies and kittens stay with their mothers eight weeks before being sold, something which the girls were particularly concerned about. And pet shop operators, dog dealers, kennel operators, cattery operators and animal shelters must be licensed by the Illinois Agriculture Department.
Their activism came after the girls read the book, "Chewy and Chica" by Ellen Miles as part of their third-grade class at Patton School. It tells the story of two students who rescue Chihuahuas from a puppy mill. They approached school librarian Idelle Melamed with ideas on what they could do, and she suggested they write their state legislators.
At the invitation of Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights, the girls appeared before the House Agriculture Committee in late March. The girls rallied support for the bill at their school and at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library with poster-signing events before they visited the Capitol.
"This is democracy in action, prompted by the work of three super third graders from Patton School," said Harris, a co-sponsor of the bill.
"We all love dogs, and just thinking about them being mistreated is really painful," Maddie said. "We hope this will inspire other kids to get involved. We learned you can do anything if you put your mind to it."