ASPCA Announces ‘Champion for Animals’ Award Recipients for Lifesaving Efforts to Help Victims of Animal Cruelty

Help Victims of Animal Cruelty National award honors six individuals in New York and Iowa for their unwavering dedication to protecting dogs in puppy mills
April 14, 2022

NEW YORK – The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today announced the six recipients of its annual “Champion for Animals” award, honoring law enforcement, animal welfare professionals, and public officials for their exceptional work to tackle animal cruelty across the country. The announcement comes during Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about animal abuse and encouraging the public to recognize and report suspected animal cruelty.

“This year’s ASPCA ‘Champion for Animals’ Award recipients share a deep commitment to helping and protecting victims of animal cruelty through on-the-ground rescue work and effective state legislation,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO. “We honor their dedication and accomplishments, and hope these efforts inspire even more acts of compassion to support animals in need.”

The 2022 ASPCA “Champion for Animals” recipients are:

New York State Lawmakers, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) for their outstanding leadership in advancing legislation to shut down the puppy mill pipeline. New York State has one of the country’s highest number of puppy-selling pet stores, which source puppies from out-of-state, low-welfare commercial breeders like Daniel Gingerich, a USDA-licensed breeder who operated in Iowa, and was allowed to continue selling puppies to New York stores after racking up almost 200 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. This broken system is allowed to flourish because in New York State, it’s still legal to sell dogs from breeders like Gingerich. To better protect consumers, public health, and animal welfare in New York State, Senator Gianaris and Assemblymember Rosenthal introduced the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill to end the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in New York pet stores, which would strike a major blow to the cruel, deceptive, and outdated part of the pet industry. The lawmakers were celebrated during an award presentation in New York City yesterday, joined by ASPCA staff and animal welfare advocates.

Robyn Dobernecker, Joe Stafford, Tina Updegrove and Megan Wiedmann with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, all who played an instrumental role in the removal of more than 500 dogs living in horrific conditions at a USDA-breeding facility in Iowa last year. Together, the four of them brought more than 100 years of experience to this operation which proved to be invaluable in saving the lives of so many animals. The four ARL of Iowa recipients were recognized during an award presentation held at their facility yesterday, during Animal Control Offer Appreciation Week, with remarks from ASPCA representatives and U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), who introduced federal legislation in response to this disturbing case to require better protection for dogs in puppy mills. Special guest Doree, a four-year-old golden retriever rescued from the case last year who has since been adopted into a safe, loving home, was also in attendance.

The USDA is responsible for ensuring that the commercial breeding facilities they license are meeting the standards set forth in the Animal Welfare Act and taking enforcement actions against those that violate the law. However, the agency has failed to fulfill its obligation, putting vulnerable animals at risk.

Along with responding to largescale cases of animal cruelty, such as the recent breeding operation in Iowa, the ASPCA works with local, state, and federal legislators to help enact meaningful protections for animals, including dogs suffering in commercial breeding facilities. In December, the ASPCA supported the introduction of Goldie’s Act, which would ensure the USDA does its job and protects the animals in its care.