Challenging independent projects can provide students with the freedom to take ownership of a topic they are passionate about—and sometimes lead to the discovery of untapped skills and abilities within themselves. That was the case for BC Law student Gabbie Minyoung Kim ’22 whose recent involvement in a public service course resulted in a deeply researched paper on commercial breeding facilities known as puppy mills.
BC Law Professor Evangeline Sarda, in her Leaders Entering and Advancing Public Service (LEAPS) Capstone Project Course last semester, introduced Kim to the idea of doing an individual study, or Capstone Project. Kim was hesitant initially, not quite sure how to handle an assignment that Sarda described as requiring leadership skills. But Kim soon realized that the undertaking offered something different from a conventional independent study, and she was intrigued.
“It required me to step out of my comfort zone to explore the meaning of leadership and incorporate that into the subject of my interest,” Kim explained. “If our course were independent study, I would’ve never gone out of my way to get signatures and petition the local council, because that was just not me. I’ve learned that I could do so much more for the community than I had once thought and it was something only this course could offer.”
Professor Sarda was gratified. “I think Kim did things she never imagined she would do while here. I’m so proud of her,” she said.
Over the course of her capstone project, Kim researched federal, state, and local ordinances, wrote a paper, “The Role of Local Ordinances in Regulating Puppy Mills,” and proposed new by-laws and a rulemaking petition. She gathered signatures, and by the end of the semester, Kim was planning to deliver a presentation to the Brookline city council.
Kim’s research exposed disturbing issues with puppy mills such as inhumane conditions and breeding practices. She found that at some facilities dogs are warehoused in cages and bred repeatedly until they die. The puppies are sold to retail pet stores, and in many cases, the animals are found to have hereditary defects, behavior problems, and infectious diseases. She highlighted the local relevance of her project by naming several retail pets stores in Massachusetts that use puppy mills to acquire their dog inventory.
Kim’s proposed by-laws aim to address problems in areas such as standard of care, living environment, inspection, and treatment of non-breeding and unsold dogs. In her paper, she establishes the need for Massachusetts municipalities to take more proactive legislative action to prohibit puppy mill operations and the resale of dogs in retail pet stores.
“Although these ordinances may not immediately correct the conditions in which many dogs suffer in puppy mills, the regulation will provide a means for communities to engage in a meaningful discussion about preventing the exploitation of lives for financial purposes,” Kim wrote.
Whatever the eventual impact, Kim has grown from her efforts. “Overall, I am incredibly grateful for the experience and the help I have received. I was fortunate to pursue the subject of my interest under Professor Sarda’s supervision and that of my peers,” said Kim.