An Iowa dog breeder convicted of 44 counts of animal neglect in 2012 was granted a new state license in 2020 and is now on the Humane Society of the United States’ annual list of the worst puppy mills in the nation.
Missouri continues to have the largest number of puppy mills in the Human Society’s annual “Horrible Hundred” report, with 21 breeders listed, followed by Ohio with 16, and Iowa with 11.
About 40% of the dealers in the report are USDA-licensed, but the Humane Society says it appears many breeders listed in the report should be licensed and are not. About 40% of the 100 dealers in the 2021 list are considered “repeat offenders” who have appeared in one or more of the group’s prior reports.
One of the Iowa breeders listed in the report is Mystical Cockers. In 2012, Sac County officials charged the owner of the facility, Mary Brodersen of Kiron, with 88 counts of simple-misdemeanor animal neglect and five counts of serious-misdemeanor animal neglect. Authorities removed 88 animals from the property, and reported that five dogs were found dead. Brodersen was later sentenced to one day in jail on each of 44 counts of animal neglect.
According to the Humane Society, American Kennel Club meeting minutes show that in 2013 the AKC suspended Brodersen from all AKC privileges for 15 years and imposed a $3,000 fine for “conduct prejudicial to purebred dogs.”
Iowa court records show that in 2018, the city of Kiron cited Brodersen for having more than 20 dogs at her North Grove Street residence. She was fined $750.
In the fall of 2020, state inspectors visited Mystical Cockers and reported the dogs appeared to be living in small, cramped quarters, with some confined to cages that were roughly 2 feet by 3 feet and were stacked two to three levels high, with wire floors.
The October 2020 inspection reports stated that 33 of the 35 adult dogs present were registered with AKC to Ricky Brodersen. The reports noted incomplete vaccine records along with clutter and other materials that could be dangerous to dogs, dirty conditions and a lack of adequate infection control. The state inspector recommended “a schedule of daily cleaning and weekly disinfection.” The business passed an official state inspection in November 2020 and was granted a license.
According to the Humane Society, Mystical Cockers appears to have circumvented the AKC suspension by registering its dogs under the name of Ricky Brodersen, rather than Mary Brodersen.
Among the other Iowa breeders listed in the 2021 report:
— Ruth Ewoldt, owner of the Furkids kennel in Toronto, Iowa: During visits in 2020 and 2021, state inspectors reported observing an “odor and stench (that) cannot be masked with air fresheners and sprays,” excessive debris and dirty conditions, an expired veterinary inspection form, and dogs that had no vaccine records.
Records indicated some puppies had been sold — at least one into another state — without the required veterinary documents. Inspectors also cited the kennel for noncompliance regarding disease prevention protocol. “I witnessed a pet sit to scratch itself and then land in a pile of feces,” an inspector wrote.
In April of this year, inspectors noted that at least one puppy had been sold to a pet store, Teske’s Pet Center in Bettendorf, although Furkids did not appear to have the required USDA license for such a sale.
— Connie and Harold Johnson, owners of Furbabies Forever, formerly CW’s Quaint Critters, in Melvin, Iowa: According to the Humane Society, the owners have repeatedly failed to let inspectors into the kennel, and over the past five years many inspection attempts have had to be aborted.
When inspectors gained access in February 2021, they reported multiple issues, including a lack of “substantial solid resting surfaces” for the dogs, incomplete vaccination documents and outdated veterinary records, and dogs that appeared unkempt and in need of grooming.
In 2019, the business surrendered its USDA license before an inspection could be conducted. The business remains licensed by the state, which means it can legally sell directly to puppy buyers but cannot ship puppies sight-unseen to buyers or sell to pet stores or brokers.
— Steve Kruse, owner of Stonehenge Kennel in West Point, Iowa: The Humane Society characterizes Stonehenge as a “massive broker with nearly 700 dogs.” Since 2015, inspectors have reported finding more than 50 injured or sick dogs.
In March of this year, the business was cited for direct, repeat violations for six dogs in need of care, including an emaciated Boston terrier and a bulldog that could not put any weight on one leg. Regarding the terrier, inspectors reported “the backbone, ribs, and hip bones were visibly prominent and easily felt with little fat and muscle covering them. Emaciated body condition could indicate a serious underlying health issue.”
Another dog had an “abnormal condition of the right eye and poor dental health,” and had “an excessive amount of yellow drainage [from her eye] spreading down the face.” A husky was reported to have one eye that was “protruding outwardly,” and another dog had a broken tooth and signs of dental disease. A puppy was found housed with an older dog that acted “aggressively” whenever the puppy approached the food bowl, inspectors said.
Between 2015 and 2017, USDA inspectors found other problems at Stonehenge, including animals with deep lacerations, oozing wounds and lameness. In December 2015, Kruse received a 21-day USDA suspension after he reportedly threw a bag containing two dead puppies at a USDA inspector.
— Kurt and Hollie Pille of St. Anthony, Iowa: In January of this year, inspectors reported some dogs had no protection from the cold and most had only frozen water in their kennels. Other issues found during the January inspection included a “lack of roofing” in an outbuilding that put the dogs at risk of falling debris; dirty conditions; and dogs exposed to unfinished walls and exposed insulation with a “risk of insulation ingestion.”
— Chris and Tammy Riddle, owners of the 6R Uplands Kennel in Gilman, Iowa: The facility failed at least two 2020 state inspections. Inspectors cited the owners for failure to provide dry, safe and sanitary conditions for dogs, and for an open bag of rat poison. Inspectors also noted unsafe housing, dirty conditions, standing water, fecal run-off that was not being drained or properly removed from the site, and “the strongest odor of urine” in one kennel.
— Tim Shimek, owner of Shimek’s AKC Siberian Huskies, located in Waucoma, Iowa: During a June 2020 state inspection, the business was cited for kennels in disrepair, food and water bowls that were not sanitary, and a veterinary inspection form that was “not completed,” suggesting there had been no recent veterinary visit to the facility.
Inspectors wrote that “the number of dogs being cared for by one person is concerning. Facilities are in need of considerable repair and major cleaning.” There were about 40 dogs and puppies on the property at the time of the inspection.
— Henry Sommers, owner of Happy Puppies, located in Cincinnati, Iowa: During an inspection in February of this year, USDA inspectors noted that many surfaces in the building “had a layer of dirt/grime/dust/waste indicating they had not been cleaned or sanitized in many months … There was a 5-gallon bucket filled with fecal-contaminated washdown water which was emitting a foul odor that had been left just a foot away from an enclosure housing two dogs … Some of the electrical outlets, directly connected to the outside of the dogs’ enclosures had a buildup of waste.
“The dogs were raised a few feet off the floor in their enclosures, but the floor beneath them was very unsanitary and the actual flooring was barely viewable beneath the layer of built-up brown/black organic material … Unclean/unsanitary surfaces were all within just a few feet — less than 6 — of the dogs, and in some cases just inches away, right outside their enclosures.”
Sommers received an official warning from the USDA in January 2016 for repeated veterinary care violations. Later that same year, a USDA inspector found a puppy who appeared “lifeless and unresponsive” with partially closed eyes and pale gums. The inspector also described her as “weak and limp while being held” and “cold to the touch.” The inspection was halted in order to secure immediate veterinary care for the puppy.
— Vickie Ubben of Milo, Iowa: During a state inspection in June 2020, an inspector noted that there was a significant odor of ammonia (urine). The inspector also noticed cramped conditions, with some bulldogs who didn’t even appear to have enough room in their enclosures to lie down with their legs extended, as well as excessive feces in the exercise runs. Wire kennels were stacked three high and had “accumulated hair and feces” around them, and “no comfort resting areas.”
— Charles Vogl, owner of SCW Frenchies, located in Atlantic, Iowa: During an October 2020 inspection, inspectors noted excessive trash and clutter, and evidence of mice in the kennel buildings, as well as significant structural damage such as holes in the walls and rotting wood. At least one dog had “excessive diarrhea,” and some of the dogs’ vaccinations were not up to date.
Dogs were observed to be “noticeably shivering” in a building that was only 43 degrees, and the state report noted that the cold building did have a heater that no one had switched on.
“Several days worth” of feces and urine were noted in the outdoor dog runs. The inspector noted the facility had “not been cleaning or sanitizing” and “does not use detergent or sanitizer.” At a follow-up inspection in November, the inspector noted that a kennel housing one nursing mother and 10 puppies had “not been cleaned or sanitized in several days.”
— Anita Wikstrom, owner of Unforgettable Schnauzers, located in Ames, Iowa: During an October 2020 inspection, state inspectors reported the facility “was very dirty with a noticeable odor of feces/urine. Dirty bedding, dirt/dust, and feces throughout, floor very grimy. More frequent cleaning/sanitation is needed due to large volume of dogs. Discussed definitions of cleaning and sanitation, different cleaning/sanitation products and methods with owner.”
Although there were dozens of dogs on the premises, the owner told inspectors she did not live on site. According to the report, she said she was “living at her sister’s part of the time” but visited the site at least twice each day to clean, fill water bowls and provide food. The inspector wrote that “kennel rooms, outdoor runs, and exterior are cluttered with trash, debris, dirty bedding, etc. Observed flies on floors and walls of interior of kennel rooms.”