Puppy mill owner tells judge ‘it’s nobody’s fault but my own’

By: - October 8, 2021 5:33 pm

One of the dogs housed at a facility run by Daniel Gingerich of Seymour. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits)

A federal judge told a contrite Daniel Gingerich on Friday that she will take “whatever action” is necessary and legal to put a halt to the type of neglect the Wayne County dog breeder is accused of committing.

Gingerich appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose on Friday for a hearing on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s request for an injunction against Gingerich due to dozens of alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Gingerich showed up for the hearing an hour late and without an attorney, having traveled to Iowa from Ohio in a pickup truck that was towing a large trailer of the type that’s often used to transport animals.

He acknowledged to the court that some of the dogs in his care have died or suffered, and he expressed regret.

“OK, so I owe a lot of money on these dogs,” he told the court. “I bit off more than I can chew … It’s nobody’s fault but my own.”

Dog breeder Daniel Gingerich arrived at the federal courthouse in Des Moines on Friday towing a large trailer of the type that’s often used to transport animals. (Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

When Rose asked Gingerich whether he’d be agreeable to immediately surrendering all of his animals that are judged to be in acute need of medical attention, he responded, “100 percent,” and later amended that answer to “110 percent.”

He said he’d turn over all of his animals, even those that aren’t sick, if he didn’t owe so much money on them.

“I owe $600,000 on these dogs,” he told the court. “I would love to wash my hands of the whole deal.”

Some of the money that he owes was borrowed from a bank, he said, and some was borrowed from another dog breeder. “I mean, I know there were some sick puppies that didn’t get taken care of because I had too many dogs,” he said.

“This can’t go on any longer,” Rose told Gingerich. “We have animals that by all descriptions are in acute distress or are near death or at death’s door.”

Rose told Gingerich she found it “very distressing” that he’d been cited for more than 100 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. “These are living animals you’ve been entrusted to care for,” she said, adding that regardless of his financial situation he has to comply with the court’s orders and with federal regulations.

‘We didn’t want more dead dogs.’

During the hearing, lawyers for the government told Rose that during an inspection at one of Gingerich’s 10 facilities, he initially refused to give the inspectors access to a barn where he had hidden numerous dogs. Then he called another individual to “transfer ownership” of the dogs to that person over the phone, only to reclaim ownership once the inspectors left – an apparent effort to decrease his liability for the violations uncovered inside the barn.

Judge Rose asked the government’s lawyers whether the USDA had attempted to seize some of the animals that appeared to be in need of immediate medical attention.

The lawyers said that process was initiated at one point, with the government giving Gingerich the required notice that specific animals were about to be seized. That only resulted in Gingerich euthanizing the dogs, said Mary Hollingsworth, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“So we stopped trying to go that route because we didn’t want more dead dogs,” Hollingsworth told the court.

Rose granted the government’s request for an injunction, which essentially extends a temporary restraining order she issued Sept. 28. She also warned Gingerich he could face serious consequences by not complying with the court’s order to provide authorities with a complete list of all his animals and their locations.

Rose told Hollingsworth and Gingerich she was open to a “creative” resolution of the case – even if means “bailing out Mr. Gingerich legally” so that the animals still in his custody can be transferred to others who will care for them. She told the government’s lawyers she’d like an update on the status of the case within two weeks.

Mindi Callison of the animal-advocacy group Bailing Out Benji attended Friday’s hearing.

“It appears as though Daniel Gingerich isn’t taking this case as seriously as he should,” she said after the hearing. “Without obtaining legal representation, my fear is that he will be let off lightly and those animals will be transferred to other breeding facilities instead of being rescued.”

Callison said she’s grateful to the judge “for taking this case seriously and for attempting to take action to get the dogs the veterinary care that they need.”

The hearing came one day after Wayne County Sheriff Keith Davis said he was considering filing criminal charges against Gingerich for animal neglect. Davis has said he wants to make sure any criminal charges that are filed won’t conflict with the USDA’s pursuit of its civil case against Gingerich.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship recently fined Gingerich $20,000 and suspended his Iowa license for 60 days, although that suspension has yet to take effect.

The Sept. 28 order issued by Rose gave Gingerich and anyone who works for him seven days to provide the U.S. Department of Justice with a “list of every location at which they have any dogs that are intended for breeding or sale,” as well as a complete inventory of all his animals, listing the breed, sex, age and unique identification number of each animal. Gingerich has yet to comply with that order.

State and federal records indicate Gingerich does business under the name Maple Hill Puppies and that he has been operating kennels or breeding facilities in 10 different locations throughout Iowa. Although it’s still not clear how many dogs Gingerich owns, the records suggest that at one time, he had at least 1,000 dogs and puppies on hand.

Inspectors counted 675 dogs on Gingerich’s two Seymour properties during site visits this past summer. Dead dogs were found at both sites – some in the grass, outside, and some in kennels kept indoors.

After those visits, the USDA gave Gingerich special permission to begin selling his dogs. According to state records, 53 dogs were given to another breeder, and roughly 250 dogs were moved to a Missouri facility to be auctioned.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.