Recent Case in Iowa Shows What Happens When USDA Fails to Do Its Job

March 19, 2024

Emaciated dog

In Johnson County, Iowa, Loren Yoder operated a cruel puppy mill for years—greenlit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA repeatedly documented severe violations on the property, including emaciated dogs, some of whom were nursing their puppies, dirty feeders covered in cobwebs and beetles, and filthy housing conditions swarmed with flies and mice. Yet the USDA took no action to stop him.

Two years ago, Yoder canceled his USDA license. The USDA has no process for licensees who decide to cancel their license; they don’t check to see if there is a plan for the dogs or confirm if the breeders are just operating without a license. Yoder, unsurprisingly, did keep breeding, selling and harming dogs. Last August, he surrendered over 100 dogs after Iowa state inspectors, who kept oversight of his breeding facility, found dogs in heat distress, with dirty and matted coats, untreated wounds and suffering from disease. Nine of the dogs died shortly after they were rescued.

And now, this month, Yoder was arrested by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and charged with 41 counts of animal neglect for the incidents recorded in August.

There is no doubt that dogs would have been saved from suffering and death if USDA would have stopped Yoder earlier. This lack of action on the USDA’s part is not unusual. The agency continues to fail the dogs it is supposed to protect and allows those that violate the law to go unpunished. The “problem” is pushed to state or local agencies, which typically have fewer resources and less availability to step in. 

We recently completed an analysis of the USDA’s lack of enforcement [PDF] over the 2023 fiscal year. Despite documenting over 1,000 violations of the Animal Welfare Act at over 400 commercial dog breeding facilities, the USDA took action against only four.

This pattern must be stopped. Please urge your members of Congress to support Goldie’s Act today, critical legislation that would require the USDA to enforce the Animal Welfare Act!