Iowa leads the nation in puppy mills cited for federal violations

By: - April 18, 2022 4:59 pm

This dog was photographed by federal inspectors inside a broken and potentially dangerous enclosure at a facility run by Daniel Gingerich in 2021. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits)

Iowa is leading the nation this year in puppy mills sanctioned by the federal government.

A national animal welfare group, Bailing Out Benji, has reviewed the detailed inspection reports filed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the first quarter of 2022. Those reports include inspectors’ observations and professional assessments of breeders and brokers whose operations are regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The review indicates that so far in 2022, 19 of Iowa’s breeders and brokers of dogs and cats have been cited for violations — more than any other state in the nation. Missouri places second, with 16, and Wisconsin places third with 13. Eleven other states – including Iowa neighbors Illinois and Wisconsin — have each had one to six puppy mills cited for violations.

The states with the highest number of USDA-licensed dog breeders are, in order, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio and Iowa.

Mindi Callison, executive director and founder of Bailing Out Benji, said it’s possible Iowa has drawn more attention from inspectors in 2022 due to the national attention generated by former Wayne County dog breeder Daniel Gingerich.

Last September, federal authorities took Gingerich, the owner of Seymour’s Maple Hill Puppies, to civil court in a successful effort to shut down his rural Iowa dog-breeding operation due to more than 100 Animal Welfare Act violations. Gingerich eventually surrendered more than 500 dogs to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and agreed to never again participate in a licensed business covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act. In March, Gingerich was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail for animal neglect.

“I think we could see an increase in enforcement nationally due to an inspector general’s report that came out last year and which proved the USDA was not doing its job in terms on inspections and enforcement,” Callison said.

The 2021 report from the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service “did not consistently address complaints it received or adequately document the results of its follow-up.”

The inspector general noted that the inspection service did not even have a “process for responding to complaints or for recording the results of the agency’s actions. As a result, some dog breeder facilities may be conducting regulated activity without a USDA license or oversight.”

Bailing Out Benji’s nationwide tally of violators omits from its calculations the “missed inspections” that sometimes result from property owners refusing inspectors access to their operations, as well as the “teachable moments” in which issues are identified by inspectors but not cited as actual violations.

The 19 Iowa violators include:

Lloyd Yoder (Valleyview Premium Puppies), Riverside: So far in 2022, Yoder has been cited for 21 separate violations related to the attending veterinarian and veterinary care; housing facilities; cleaning, sanitizing and pest control; record keeping; outdoor housing facilities; feeding; and veterinary care provided to dogs.

In February, inspectors reported that the maximum number of animals Yoder was authorized to have was 100, but the facility had 170 dogs on the premises. Inspectors also made note of a female Old English sheepdog that was severely emaciated. “The dog’s spine, ribs, shoulder blades and hip bones were protruding and easily felt beneath the hair coat with little to no fat or muscle covering the dog’s frame. Loose stool is also coating the hair beneath the dog’s tail. The dog has not been evaluated by a veterinarian and is not under treatment for the poor body condition,” the inspector wrote.  He also noted a second emaciated sheepdog which was nursing nine puppies and had not been evaluated by a veterinarian.

“In several enclosures, the inspectors could not walk without stepping in feces,” the inspector reported. In one enclosure, a loose piece of wire was wrapped around the legs of one dog. “The dog was observed running throughout the enclosure with the wire around the right hind leg and around the right foreleg,” the inspector wrote. Another enclosure had a large gap in the wire fence, which was large enough that a dog could escape. A third enclosure had “numerous sharp points” at dog height that had been created by broken livestock fencing. Another enclosure was littered with shotgun shells.

“In one enclosure housing four adult dogs there is a large amount of standing water,” the inspector wrote. “The dogs were observed running back and forth in the muddy water.” One of the outdoor enclosures had no bedding for the four dogs housed there, although overnight temperatures were below freezing.

At least six of the outdoor enclosures had dogs eating from self-feeding devices filled with food that was either contaminated, moldy, caked into clumps, or was actively deteriorating. One feeder used by two adult dogs had moldy food in it and a large chunk of caked food had to be pulled from the feeder by the inspector. Another feeder had a large amount of rodent feces mixed into the food. A third feeder had dog food in it that was directly contaminated with bird droppings. Seven dogs had only food “that deteriorated and disintegrated in the inspector’s hand.” Another feeder had “small pieces of plastic mixed into the food.”

Rodent droppings were found on top of stored sacks of dog food inside a storage room, and two dead mice were found in a trap, with the owner unsure of how long they had been there.

Federal records indicate Yoder sells puppies to retail stores in Texas and Virginia.

Menno Gingerich, Alba:  During a Feb. 16 visit, inspectors cited Menno Gingerich for four violations, including one critical violation. An English bulldog puppy was seen by inspectors walking with “staggered steps” while circling continuously and carrying its head to the side.

“I asked the representative what happened to this puppy,” the inspector reported. “They stated that shortly after this puppy was born on Dec. 6, 2021, its (mother) bit it on the back of its neck. The neck area sustained an open gash. The representative did not know how big the gash was. I asked the representative what did they do for this puppy after it was initially observed. The response was that they stitched up the open wound. I then asked them if the puppy was taken to the attending veterinarian. They answered no, the attending veterinarian was not called. I then asked the representative if anesthesia was used prior to stitching the puppy and the answer was no.”

Menno Gingerich later told the inspector that sewing string was used to stitch the wound, though no medical records were being maintained on the puppy. Gingerich was given an official USDA warning that any future violations could result in civil penalties, criminal prosecution or other sanctions.

Allen Stutzman (AE Kennels), Seymour: During a March 7 inspection, Stutzman was cited for four violations pertaining to the attending veterinarian; sheltered housing facilities; and the veterinary care provided for dogs.

“This new site has four enclosures with outdoor runs that house 14 dogs,” the inspector noted. “The concrete is not sealed. Porous surfaces that are not sealed are not impervious to moisture and can absorb urine and water contaminated with fecal material and cannot be properly cleaned and sanitized.”

The inspector also reported that each animal’s written program of veterinary care failed to include plans for preventative care and treatment to allow for the early detection of disease and other conditions. The written programs also failed to include schedules of testing for internal parasites or heartworm. “The licensee must consult with their attending veterinarian and add a schedule for testing for heartworms and intestinal parasites,” the inspector wrote.

Brian Felton, Centerville: During a Jan. 26 inspection, Felton was cited for five violations related to the outdoor housing facilities as well as feeding and watering. With the temperature outside measured at 25 degrees, two adult mastiffs were found housed in a wooden shelter with no bedding and no wind break at the entrance to shield the animals from wind and rain.

An addition to the shelter must be added, the inspector reported, to “ensure the dogs are fully protected from weather extremes at all times.” The lack of bedding, he reported, “does not ensure the dogs are properly protected against frigid temperatures.”

Federal records indicate Felton sells puppies through the broker Blue Ribbon Puppies.

Carolyn Anderson (Anderson’s Yorkies), Mason City, Iowa: Anderson has been cited for 16 violations so far in 2022. Those violations pertain to the identification of dogs; record keeping; housing; primary enclosures; and veterinary care.

During a series of inspections, officials noted that two adult dogs were missing. They also noted that two other dogs had inadequate space in their shared kennel. Both of those dogs measured 17 inches from their nose to their tail and together they required a minimum 7.3 square feet of floor space. Instead, they had 3.9 square feet of floor space.

In October 2021, Anderson had told inspectors the business would no longer treat diarrhea in dogs with bottles of medication that had expired in 2016. However, the inspector reported, those same bottles, which had been disposed of during the 2021 inspection, were found back in the refrigerator this year, alongside actively used medications.

Also, the inspector noted, the kennel “does not currently have an effective cleaning and sanitization protocol” and had ongoing giardia and coccidia infections among the animals. The inspector noted “moderate to excessive” accumulations of dust, dirt, hair, urine, excrement, food waste and other debris on the property.

“At least 50% of the hard surfaces — floors, cabinets, walls, crate stands, chairs, desk and other furniture-type items — throughout the animal housing areas have a thick yellow, brown or black buildup,” the inspector wrote.

Aside from certain dogs housed in wire crates, “all other dogs have a designated feeding area that is currently contaminated with an excessive accumulation” of dust, dirt, hair, urine and excrement, the inspector reported.

The inspector added that he watched “a tan and white dog named Finn eating food from the floor. The floor in this area is covered with a heavy layer of brown to black matter.” The USDA issued Anderson an official warning that it may pursue civil penalties, criminal prosecution, or other sanctions in the event of any future violations.

David, Glenda, Eric and Adam Grove (Iowa Fox Creek Kennels), Unionville: During a March 14 inspection, the Groves were cited for four violations pertaining to housing facilities; cleaning and sanitizing and pest control; and veterinary care for the dogs.

“The facility is not removing dog feces from the enclosures on a daily basis,” the inspector wrote. “At least five outdoor enclosures, containing an approximate total of 14 dogs, have a heavy buildup of old and fresh feces. The older feces are dried and appear white in color indicating they have been there for some time.”

D.J. Cobler and Melissa Cobler (Back Road Soul Puppies), Moravia: During a March 8 inspection, the Coblers were cited for one violation pertaining to veterinary care for dogs. “The facility must consult the attending veterinarian and add a plan for the sampling of intestinal parasites — including the number of animals to be sampled — to the Program of Veterinary Care,” the inspector wrote.

Ethan and Garry Zumbach (Zumbach Yorkies), Monticello: During a Feb. 16 inspection, the Zumbachs were cited for two violations pertaining to veterinary care for dogs. “The facility was administering the medications as prescribed by the veterinarian,” the inspector wrote, “but didn’t document each time the medications were given to the animals. This information is needed for inspectors to evaluate the medical care provided by the facility.” Federal records indicate the Zumbachs sell puppies to retailers in Florida, New York and Texas.

Henry Sommers (Happy Puppies), Cincinnati, Iowa: During a Jan. 11 inspection, Sommers was cited for six violations related to the attending veterinarian; record keeping; housing facilities; veterinary care; and cleaning, sanitizing and pest control. For the second time, inspectors noted a female Yorkshire terrier that was in poor dental health, with loose teeth on both sides of her mouth and gums that had receded away from the teeth. The kennel’s veterinarian had examined the dog but did not provide any treatment.

In addition, a female mixed-breed dog was in poor dental health, with “very few teeth remaining in its mouth,” the inspector said. This same dog’s dental health issues were noted during a previous inspection, and, as with the Yorkie, the dog was examined by a veterinarian who provided no treatment.

A similar problem existed with a male Yorkshire terrier whose teeth had a buildup of dark brown tartar. “Both sides of the mouth are coated in a creamy white substance and the gums are slightly reddened,” the inspector noted. In addition, the business had no documentation as to how it had acquired 10 of its adult dogs.

Holly Iben (Iben Family Puppies), Monticello: During a Feb. 3 inspection, Iben was cited for two violations pertaining to the attending veterinarian and inadequate identification of puppies. “A female Yorkshire terrier had two loose top incisors when examined,” the inspector reported. “The cheek teeth had mild buildup of brown material and the adjacent gums were mildly reddened … This dog must be evaluated by the veterinarian.” Federal records indicate Iben sells puppies to pet stores in Texas, Colorado and New York.

Jake Kruse (K&E Kennels), Salem: During a Jan. 19 inspection, Kruse was cited for three violations pertaining to housing facilities and cleaning, sanitizing and pest control. “There are at least 10 enclosures, containing approximately 10 adult dogs, that have sharp corner edges on the metal door frame,” the inspector reported. “There are three enclosures containing three adult dogs that have metal-bucket food bowls that contain a buildup of caked food and organic material on the interior of the feeder. There is one enclosure containing two adult dogs that has a metal self-feeder that contains a buildup of caked food and wild bird feces on the interior of the feeder.” Federal records indicate Kruse sells puppies to retailers in at least 17 states across the country.

Julie Halverson. Monona: During a March 4 inspection, Halverson was cited for six violations pertaining to the attending veterinarian; housing facilities; primary enclosures; cleaning, sanitizing and pest control; and veterinary care for dogs. During the visit, an inspector found medications that had expired in 2o11, 2018 and 2020.

One enclosure containing three adult Pomeranians required a minimum of 15.4 square feet of floor space. Instead, the dogs had 14.6 square feet of floor space. In addition, four adult miniature schnauzers were in an enclosure that required a minimum of a 19.6 square feet of floor space. Instead, the dogs had just 13.7 square feet of floor space.

“Rodent droppings were found next to stored bags of dog food,” the inspector wrote. “Other than the mouse-poison block — located right next to a large pile of rodent droppings — the facility has no plan to control rodents.” Federal records indicate the business sells puppies through the broker JAKS Puppies.

Kayla Mulder, George: During a Jan. 31, inspection, Mulder was cited for one violation pertaining to the attending veterinarian and veterinary care. A bottle of medication that had expired the previous November was found among the medications used in the facility.

Larry Albrecht (Coldwater Kennel), Greene: During a March 8 inspection, Albrecht was cited for three violations pertaining to primary enclosures and feeding and watering. Two enclosures housing newborn puppies had flooring made up of plastic-coated wire, with gaps larger than the puppies’ feet. “Inspectors observed the chihuahua puppy and three of the poodle puppy’s feet passing through the flooring,” the inspector wrote.

In addition, he reported that two enclosures housing a shih tzu and chihuahua “had caked and moldy food present in the self-feeder trays.” Also, one dog in an outdoor exercise yard “had no access to water … When given water, she drank leisurely for approximately one minute.”

Federal records indicate the business sells puppies to pet stores in Connecticut, New York and Viriginia.

Lavern Nolt, Charles City: During a Feb. 2 inspection, Nolt was cited for four violations pertaining to the attending veterinarian; record keeping; and primary enclosures. A female Maltese named Fifi had a persistent and abnormal skin condition leading to a large hairless area on her back, with reddened, bumpy skin, and sores that had split open, revealing raw tissue. “The condition continues to persist, and the facility has not reached out to a veterinarian to have the dog’s ongoing condition evaluated,” the inspector wrote.

The inspector also made note of insufficient veterinary care for a female English bulldog named Maybelle who had a large red growth covering a third of one eye, and a male Maltese named Billy that had only three remaining teeth.

“The inspector observed three Bichon puppies’ feet falling through the holes in the flooring of an elevated whelping enclosure,” the inspector wrote. “Flooring that allows dogs’ feet and legs to pass through may cause injury.”

Loren Yoder, Riverside: During a Feb. 28 inspection, Yoder was cited for six violations pertaining to housing facilities; cleaning, sanitizing and pest control; and veterinary care for the dogs. The inspector noted there was one outdoor enclosure containing five adult dogs that had a plywood floor.

“The plywood floor is buried beneath a thick layer of dirt and gravel,” the inspector wrote. “In the enclosure, rodents have dug holes beneath the shelter and up through the plywood floor.”

In addition, the inspector reported the enclosure had “a heavy buildup of old and new feces. Piles of feces are scattered across the ground in the enclosure, and they consist of a mix of fresh and old feces which appear dry and white in color.”

The inspector also stated that “the facility is not maintaining medical records for the dogs. The facility had the dogs physically examined by the attending veterinarian, but there are no records containing the dogs’ identities, date of the exam, or the results of the examination.”

Linda Thompson (Rolinda Acres Country / Thompson’s Puppies), Waterville: During a March 10 inspection, Thompson was cited for nine violations, including one serious, direct violation. The violations pertaining to the attending veterinarian and veterinary care; identification of the animals; record keeping; housing facilities; exercise for the dogs; feeding; and cleaning, sanitizing and pest control.

A female bichon named Mabel was found to be in poor dental health, with a tooth that moved easily when touched. Also, the facility had sold 59 puppies in the previous year with no unique, official ID number that would allow for tracking.

Additional problems were noted with regard to enclosures that were unclean and in poor repair. Rodent feces were found in a drainage trough in the operation’s adult dog room and “a large accumulation of feces were on top of a bucket in the dog grooming area,” the inspector reported.

Melinda Wiemann (Wie Wag Kennels), Donnellson: During a March 9 inspection, Wiemann was cited for one violation pertaining to housing facilities. Inspectors reported finding 10 holes with sharp, jagged edges, that ranged from 4 to 6 inches in length, on an outdoor metal wall. Federal records indicate this facility sells puppies to retailers in Iowa and Illinois.

Woody Wiley, Cantril: During a Feb. 17 inspection, Wiley was cited for four violations related to the attending veterinarian; record keeping; and exercise. Inspectors noted a golden retriever that had hair loss over half of its body, with reddened exposed skin. “There were no records available at the time of this inspection describing the extent of the hair loss and the veterinary care provided,” the inspector noted.

The inspector also reported a thin, female husky whose ribs, backbone and hip bones were visible from a lack of fat cover. Concerns were also noted with two other dogs.

“These four animals must be examined by a licensed vet and appropriate treatment administrated,” the inspector wrote.

There were 237 adult dogs counted during the inspection, but the owner’s official USDA dog-on-hand records, as well as records documenting the disposition of animals no longer there, were not available to be viewed by the inspector. Wiley was given an official USDA warning that any future violations could result in civil penalties, criminal prosecution or other sanctions.

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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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