Puppy mill owner now wants to rid himself of 189 dogs

By: - October 15, 2021 5:24 pm

During a a July visit to a dog breeding operation run by Daniel Gingerich, inspectors found dozens of dogs in a “filthy” horse barn. One of the dogs seen here had partly broken through one of the walls separating the animals inside the barn, and his head and front legs were protruding through the hole. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits.)

Wayne County dog breeder Daniel Gingerich is asking a federal judge for permission to transfer all 189 dogs still in his possession to an Indiana organization that claims to be a charitable animal-rescue group.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose ordered Gingerich, who is accused of more than 100 violations of Animal Welfare Act, to surrender all dogs in his possession that were in acute distress and in need of medical care.

At the time, Gingerich signaled a desire to give up all of the dogs he had, but said financial constraints prevented him from doing so.

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

Since then, Gingerich has obtained legal representation. Attorney Michael Byrne of Mason City filed a motion with the court late Friday asking the court’s permission for Gingerich to give up all of his dogs.

In that motion, Byrne says his client has complied with the court’s previous order by surrendering on Wednesday and Thursday an unspecified number of dogs judged to be in acute distress.

Gingerich, Byrne told the court, now wants to “be relieved of further responsibilities for the care, control and management of all dogs under his care.”

He said the animals would be transferred to Dr. Denise Katz and the Love Pet Project, a tax-exempt charitable organization that is based in Zionsville, Indiana, and is willing to take the dogs for the purpose of “re-homing” them.

This emaciated golden retriever was found inside a horse stall in an Iowa dog-breeding facility run by Daniel Gingerich. Federal officials say Gingerich placed dogs there in an effort to hide them from inspectors. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits)

Byrne told the court that the Love Pet Project will cooperate with the court and with federal regulators in allowing oversight of the transfer and in providing whatever follow-up care is deemed necessary for the dogs.

In his motion, Byrne said the transfer can take place within 24 to 48 hours of the court’s approval. Katz can then provide each of the animals with the physical examination that Rose’s prior order says must be completed by Oct. 27.

According to the website of the Love Pet Project, the organization charges adoption fees of $200 to $1,800 for puppies and dogs, with “100% of the adoption fees (going) back to fund the rescue’s animal care.”

Mindi Callison of the animal advocacy group Bailing Out Benji, which has been following the Gingerich case, said she would “strongly suggest” the U.S. Department of Agriculture and lawyers for the Department of Justice double-check any rescue organization to which Gingerich is giving up his animals.

“In recent years there have been several 501(c)(3 )‘rescues’ that have popped up which turned out to be front-businesses for the puppy mill industry,” Callison said. “Rescue Pets Iowa and Hobo K9 Rescue were investigated and shut down by the Iowa attorney general after it was discovered that both were operated by a notorious puppy broker, JAKS Puppies.”

During last week’s hearing, lawyers for the government told Rose that at one point this summer, USDA officials gave 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 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.

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.

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. Records suggest that at one time, he had at least 1,000 dogs and puppies on hand.

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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. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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