Puppy Mill Horror: 8 Shocking Times the USDA Failed Dogs

July 11, 2023

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licenses businesses that breed and sell animals wholesale, and the agency is responsible for ensuring that these businesses provide humane care.

But that’s not what happens. The USDA isn’t doing its job.

The agency has a history of letting cruelty go unreported and unpunished. Here are eight examples of the USDA failing dogs; this information came from the agency’s own inspection reports and Freedom of Information Act requests. This is not an exhaustive list—there are countless examples of the USDA’s failure to do its job.

Warning: The following information and pictures are disturbing.

1. Thousands of Beagles Abused and Killed at Mass Breeding Company

At a Virginia-based facility operated by Envigo, which supplied dogs for research and experimentation, USDA inspectors documented heinous animal welfare violations but the agency willfully ignored its obligation to intervene. Reuters later reported that high-ranking officials within the USDA’s Animal Care department instructed inspectors to cut out 80 pages of their initial report on the cruelty at this facility. They also removed the lead inspector from the case and restricted inspectors from visiting the property, even after learning the welfare violations were severe. Even after the U.S. Department of Justice intervened, and 4,000 Beagles were surrendered, the USDA renewed Envigo’s license and has not taken any further action to protect the animals despite continued violations.

a puppy hiding under a cage on a waste covered floor

2. Puppies Become Sick and Die in Oklahoma Facility

During an inspection at an Oklahoman breeding facility, the USDA observed a litter of puppies—two of the puppies were deceased and decaying, and another was listless with shallow breathing. Three more puppies were huddled nearby. Their kennels contained a severe accumulation of feces, and cockroaches infested their food. Although this facility had a history of animal welfare violations, the USDA took no action against him and did nothing to protect his animals.

feces covered cage floor

3. Arkansas Puppy Mill’s Enclosures Infested with Maggots

The USDA inspected an Arkansas dog-breeding facility and documented outdoor enclosures with drains full of waste. They found large swarms of maggots on the ground in the facility, and they noted half of the outdoor enclosures didn’t provide protection from cold or rain, and the dogs had no access to food or water. The USDA took no action against this breeder.


4. Dogs Overheat in Scorching Summer Weather

During an inspection of Missouri dog-breeding facility Royal Heritage Kennel, USDA inspectors observed dogs and puppies panting excessively, including mother dogs who were panting so much that their puppies could not nurse. The temperature inside was over 95 degrees. The USDA attempted to conduct four more inspections since then, but was denied access the last three times. The USDA has taken no disciplinary action.

puppies in a dirty cage

5. No Veterinary Care for Severely Underweight Dogs

The USDA inspected an Iowa dog breeder with approximately 130 dogs. Inspectors noted underweight dogs, including a nursing mom who was so thin her spine and hips were easily felt under her coat. None of the underweight dogs had been evaluated by a veterinarian, and the facility also failed to address violations cited during prior inspections. During the inspection, the breeder told the inspector to cancel the license, which they did. There is no record of USDA taking further action.


6. Iowa Breeder Inhumanely Euthanizes Dogs
  • For well over a decade, USDA inspectors detailed Henry Sommers’ failures to provide care to his dogs, and despite witnessing many atrocities, the USDA did not hesitate to renew Sommer’s license year after year. Sommers kept dogs in small, dirty and dangerous cages, failed to provide veterinary care and conducted his own “euthanasia” in a manner the attending veterinarian did not authorize, which is against animal welfare laws. Sommers was recently arrested for animal cruelty and neglect by the local sheriff.

a small dog being examined

7. Breeder Throws Bag of Dead Puppies at USDA Inspectors

Steve Kruse, a dog breeder from Iowa, has been cited over 50 times for animal-welfare violations, including pouring hot sauce into a dog’s wound to prevent the dog from licking it, throwing a bag of dead puppies at USDA inspectors, and performing archaic and dangerous surgical insemination procedures on dogs. Kruse has been operating for over three decades with no fear of repercussions. The ASPCA even uncovered evidence of Kruse euthanizing 199 of his dogs in a single day. Recently, the USDA suspended his license for 21 days, an action which is supposed to allow the USDA time to investigate and determine future action. Despite this, there is no indication that they have plans to pursue additional enforcement action. Now that the suspension is over, Kruse is free to continue operating as usual.

dogs with bloody feet

8. Dying and Decaying Dogs at Iowa Puppy Mill

At a USDA-licensed facility in Iowa operated by Daniel Gingerich, inspectors observed dogs starving and emaciated, overheating, dying and decomposing on the property. The USDA documented hundreds of violations over several months but did nothing to protect these suffering animals. Eventually, the U.S. Department of Justice stepped in to orchestrate the surrender of over 500 dogs. By that time, an unknown number of dogs, including an emaciated Golden Retriever we named Goldie, had already died. Despite its inaction, the USDA hails its actions in the Gingerich case as award-worthy, giving cash bonuses to staff who worked on the case.

puppies on straw and trash covered floor


These eight examples illustrate the USDA’s unacceptable pattern of avoiding, delaying, or refusing to take the necessary action to uphold the Animal Welfare Act; it's impossible to list each and every time the USDA has failed to do its job, since this has become its standard practice. This is why Congress must pass Goldie’s Act, federal legislation that would require the USDA to better protect the vulnerable animals in licensed commercial facilities.

Take action today! Use our easy online form to urge your members of Congress to support Goldie’s Act.