New ASPCA Report Shows USDA Failed to Act in Response to 90 Percent of Animal Welfare Violations in FY23

Despite documenting over 1,000 violations of the Animal Welfare Act at more than 400 commercial dog dealers alone, the USDA only took action against four dog dealers
March 14, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC – The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) has released a new report analyzing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inspections of Animal Welfare Act licensed facilities, documented violations, and enforcement actions against violators for the 2023 fiscal year. Based on the ASPCA’s analysis of USDA data, federal inspectors documented over 1,000 violations for commercial dog dealers at more than 400 facilities. However, the agency only took action against four dog dealers. Additionally, violation history had no impact on a facility’s ability to have their license renewed by the USDA, so all dog dealers who wanted to be relicensed were, even problematic dealers with consistent violations.

“The Animal Welfare Act sets minimal welfare requirements for animals in commercial facilities, including dogs in puppy mills, yet the USDA has continually failed to enforce those requirements,” said Robert Hensley, Senior Counsel, ASPCA Legal Advocacy and Investigations. “Thousands of vulnerable dogs and other animals have suffered and died because of the USDA’s repeated failure to take any meaningful inaction against problematic dealers, and hundreds more remain at risk under the agency’s failing oversight. We urge Congress to step in to fix the USDA’s broken system and ensure animals in federally licensed facilities get the protections they deserve.”

There are a quarter of a million dogs in USDA licensed commercial breeding facilities, and countless examples of facilities where dogs were suffering, yet the USDA took no action at all. Examples of the USDA’s failure to act during FY23, include:

  • David Horning, dog breeder, Iowa: In February 2023, the USDA found a dead puppy under an elevated floor that had not been noticed by the licensee. Another puppy was found to be small, with a head tremor, making it difficult to walk and was continuously stepped on by his littermates. The licensee had taken no action to address these issues, and the USDA issued a warning but took no further action. The breeder later voluntarily cancelled his license.  
  • Cody Zimmerman, dog breeder, Missouri: In March 2023, the USDA found several mother dogs with puppies who had been left overnight without any water. When they were finally given water, one dog drank for over a minute while her puppies hovered nearby, trying to drink as well. The USDA took no enforcement action against this licensee. 
  • David Weaver, dog breeder, Ohio: In April 2023, the USDA passed Weaver on a relicensing inspection, granting him licensure for the next three years, despite repeated violations on inspection reports throughout 2023, including dogs with severe gum disease and inflamed ears. He also repeatedly failed to make himself available for USDA inspections. 

To address these ongoing failures, the ASPCA is urging Congress to include Goldie’s Act in the upcoming Farm Bill. Sponsored by a bipartisan team of lawmakers including U.S. Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and Zach Nunn (R-IA), Goldie’s Act (H.R. 1788) — which is named after a Golden Retriever who suffered and died in an Iowa puppy mill — will require the USDA to conduct more thorough inspections, impose penalties for violations, and report suspected cruelty to local law enforcement. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus recently endorsed Goldie’s Act, which has garnered support from nearly 150 animal welfare, law enforcement and shelter organizations, and received attention during Secretary Tom Vilsack’s recent appearance before the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, when Congressman Nunn raised the urgent need to pass this bill.

For more information or to read the ASPCA’s full analysis of the USDA’s FY23 enforcement data, please visit