HILTON, N.Y. (WROC) — A push to shut down puppy mills across New York is being spearheaded by two Hilton teenagers. Joey Nowacki and Cooper Streb, both 13-years-old, are on a mission to end animal cruelty across the state.

The two students at Merton Williams Middle School have a plan that includes shutting down all puppy mills in New York. “We are attempting to shut them down due to: we recently adopted a golden doodle, and unfortunately, it didn’t work out, due to the way it was treated at the puppy mills,” Cooper said. “After doing a little further research, Joey and I decided to try and put an end to them.”

Cooper said the dog his family was trying to rescue was overbred, abused, and kept in a horse stall for four years. “We were told that she was not treated well, that she possibly had a fight for food,” Cooper said. “She, unfortunately, had a high prey instinct towards small animals, and we have a cat so we don’t want to take any chances.”

Cooper’s best friend, Joey, is also passionate about ending animal cruelty. He recently adopted an English Bulldog puppy with a cleft lip and said the dog may have been put down if his family hadn’t rescued him. Joey said that his dog “means the world” to him. “I have been focusing on kind of shutting up puppy mills for a while now. I did it as my Power One Project back in sixth grade, so it’s just been something that’s always been on my mind.”

The two teens are now using their shared experiences to make a difference. “It’s a really big help because he understands what I’ve been going through. I understand what he’s been going through with his dog,” Joey said. “It’s really helped me know that we’re like best friends and we’ve been friends for a long time.”

To get the word out about their efforts, the boys have been spending seven to eight hours a week trying to end puppy mills and animal cruelty. They began by starting a petition that was signed hundreds of times. They also created flyers that explain their efforts and how people can get involved. The flyers were posted at libraries, bus stops, and local businesses. Each one has a QR code that takes people to their petition.

“We have around 900 people right now, after like three weeks, then the first thing we ended up doing is going door to door in our neighborhoods, trying to tell the people that we know about it,” Cooper said. “Our goal is to start shutting them down, the few puppy mills that are in New York State first, and then spreading the word throughout the country.”

Through public service announcement videos and social media, the boys have gained a pretty big following. They’ve teamed up with the animal rescue service, North Paw Rescue, to help get their message out. Their classmates and teachers have rallied around them as well. 

“They really like it. They’re really helpful,” Cooper said. “A lot of my friends at school have been talking to me about it, reposting on social media, my teachers been doing the same, retweeting on Twitter, so they’re helping out really well.”

Joey said that even though they’re young, this is just the beginning of their efforts. And so far, they’ve only had positive responses from those around them. “They’re very positive about it. I’ve gotten like little to no people saying that I can’t do it,” he said. “They’re very supportive.”

To help their mission, the boys are encouraging people to call their Assemblymember to support the “Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill,” which would end the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores across the state. The bill passed twice in the Senate, but not in the Assembly, where some are concerned about pet stores going out of business. You can also get involved in the teen’s efforts by contacting them directly on their website.