Puppy mill owner agrees to surrender 304 dogs to Animal Rescue League
The exterior of a Wayne County kennel operated by dog breeder Daniel Gingerich. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits)
The operator of a Wayne County puppy mill has agreed to surrender all dogs in his possession and has reached a tentative settlement agreement with the federal government, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Court records indicate Daniel Gingerich, owner of Maple Hill Puppies, has permanently surrendered all dogs that he housed at three of his Iowa dog-breeding sites: 3125 Davis Rd., in Seymour; 12340 240th St., in Lamoni; and 28920 188th Ave., in Davis City.
Approximately 64 dogs were surrendered from the Lamoni and Davis City locations and were transferred to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa earlier this week. An additional 240 dogs from the site in Seymour are expected to be transferred to the ARL beginning Monday, according to court filings.
Citing those developments, the Department of Justice and Gingerich’s lawyer have jointly asked a federal judge to delay a contempt-of-court hearing that was scheduled for Monday. They say the purpose of that delay is to give the parties one additional week to finalize a consent decree in which both parties agree to a resolution of the case.
The court has granted that motion.
Court records give no indication as to the fate of the other dogs that were reportedly in Gingerich’s possession as recently as Oct. 18. It was then that Gingerich’s attorney, Michael Byrne of Mason City, told the court his client had custody of 453 dogs. The joint motion he and the DOJ filed this week makes reference to only 304 dogs.
An attorney for the Department of Justice has referred all questions about the case to the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs, which has not responded to calls and emails from the Iowa Capital Dispatch. When contacted at his office Friday, Byrne said, “I’m not available,” and hung up.
Mindi Callison of Bailing Out Benji, a national animal welfare organization based in Iowa, said she’s concerned about the apparent discrepancy in the number of dogs Gingerich still has, but is happy to see so many animals removed from his custody.
“We are thrilled that all of the dogs will be going to a legitimate rescue organization where they can receive the love and care they deserved all along,” Callison said. “Even with this act of good faith at the end, Daniel Gingerich still deserves to be held accountable for his crimes against these animals. Gingerich needs to have his USDA license revoked and he should have cruelty, neglect and/or torture charges pressed against him for breaking our state laws and for causing the unnecessary suffering and death of thousands of dogs.”
Gingerich is currently facing administrative sanctions from both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for more than 100 violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
On Oct. 8, he was ordered to surrender all dogs in his possession that were in acute distress and in need of medical care.
At the subsequent Oct. 18 hearing, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose denied Gingerich’s request to transfer all of his remaining dogs to the Love Pet Project, a self-described “rescue” group based in Zionsville, Indiana. The DOJ had asked that the dogs be transferred to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, a position that Rose said she agreed with.
Gingerich had objected to that proposal, with his attorney telling the court Gingerich “simply prefers that the ARL not have involvement” in the case.
It’s not known whether the proposed settlement will have any impact on the $20,000 fine that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has imposed against Gingerich, or the potential for criminal enforcement of Iowa’s animal welfare laws.
Rose has told the DOJ she is open to a “creative” resolution of the case—even, she said, if that means “bailing out Mr. Gingerich legally” so that the animals still in his custody could be transferred to others who will care for them.
State and federal records indicate Gingerich 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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