Two Years After the Rescue of 500 Puppy Mill Dogs, Has Anything Changed?
Two years ago, the ASPCA assisted the Animal Rescue League of Iowa with the rescue of more than 500 dogs living in terrible conditions at a federally licensed puppy mill.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licensed a commercial breeding facility in Iowa operated by Daniel Gingerich despite documenting over 200 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. USDA inspectors documented dead dogs on the property, dogs with untreated injuries and illnesses, dogs with painful fur-matting, and dogs in cages that were too small. The USDA took no action to stop Gingerich for months, even as the number of violations continued to grow. They didn’t issue fines or utilize other enforcement options, choosing instead to use ineffective programs [PDF] to try to get Gingerich to comply. The USDA did not inform local law enforcement or confiscate the suffering dogs. Eventually, the U.S. Department of Justice used its authority to negotiate the surrender of more than 500 dogs.
We hoped this case would be a turning point—that the clear, heartbreaking results of the USDA’s inaction would motivate meaningful change. But over the past two years, we have continued to witness the USDA fail to protect animals in commercial breeding facilities, including:
- The USDA Awarded Its Employees Involved in the Gingerich Case. The ASPCA obtained documents showing that the USDA’s Animal Care Division gave cash awards to 17 staff members who were involved with the Gingerich case. This move shows that the USDA considers the Gingerich case a success, despite the massive loss of life and suffering of hundreds of dogs.
- After Just a 21-Day Suspension, It’s Business as Usual for Notorious Dog Dealer. Steve Kruse is one of the worst-of-the-worst puppy mill operators in the U.S. who has built a massive business breeding and brokering dogs. He owns and operates multiple commercial dog breeding facilities in Iowa and supplies dogs to various breeders, including Daniel Gingerich. This was the only action the USDA took against Kruse, and he has since been free to continue to operate without consequences.
- The business Envigo bred thousands of Beagles for research, and in less than a year they amassed over 60 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. USDA inspectors documented dead dogs, starving dogs, dogs in dangerous conditions, and dogs in need of veterinary care. The Department of Justice filed a federal case and negotiated the surrender of the dogs, but the USDA did not revoke their license. The company is still breeding, brokering and performing research on animals. This year, Reuters later reported that USDA leadership was actively trying to cover up Envigo’s treatment of the dogs and the agency’s own refusal to protect the animals.
- Conditions USDA Accepts Support a Criminal Conviction. Henry Sommers amassed over 75 violations of the Animal Welfare Act in his decades-long career as a commercial dog breeder. The USDA re-licensed Sommers over and over every year until he voluntarily canceled his own license. Shortly after, he was arrested by an Iowa County Sheriff’s Office and eventually pled guilty to two counts of animal neglect with serious injury or death, crimes he committed while USDA-licensed.
The USDA continues to turn a blind eye to violations. Though more than 500 dogs rescued from Gingerich’s puppy mill have been given the chance to live their lives free from the horrible conditions they were in, not all dogs are as lucky.
Goldie’s Act would require the USDA to uphold the law and protect animals in federally licensed facilities. We named this law in honor of a Golden Retriever who suffered and died at Gingerich’s facility under the USDA’s watch. On this two-year anniversary of the rescue of more than 500 puppy mill dogs, use this form to urge your member of Congress to support Goldie’s Act!