State agency slashes fine against convicted puppy-mill operator

By: - August 25, 2022 3:35 pm

This dog with severely overgrown toenails was found at a breeding facility run by Daniel Gingerich in Iowa. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits)

In an effort to “conserve staff time and resources,” Iowa regulators have slashed the penalty imposed on one of the state’s most notorious puppy mill operators.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has cut the fine it imposed last October against former dog breeder Daniel Gingerich, reducing it from $40,000 to $10,000.

“This is an extremely disappointing and concerning decision,” said Mindi Callison of the Iowa-based animal-welfare organization Bailing Out Benji. “They are sending a very strong message to the worst companion-animal facilities in our state that no matter how many violations they receive or how much cruelty they inflict on the animals in their ‘care,’ they will walk away with just a slap on the wrist.”

Last September, federal authorities took Gingerich to civil court in a successful effort to shutter his rural Wayne County dog-breeding operation, Maple Hill Puppies. That effort culminated with Gingerich surrendering more than 500 dogs to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and agreeing to never again participate in a licensed business covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Former Wayne County puppy mill operator Daniel Gingerich. (Photos courtesy of the Wayne County Jail.)

In addition, Gingerich was criminally prosecuted and pleaded guilty to one count each of animal neglect resulting in injury and animal neglect resulting in serious injury or death. He was ordered to spend 30 days in jail and serve two years of probation. He then served his jail sentence in four-day increments in Ohio, where he now lives.

Shortly after the federal civil action was initiated last year, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship imposed $20,000 in administrative penalties against Gingerich and suspended his license for 60 days, citing the same violations of the Animal Welfare Act that U.S. Department of Agriculture officials referenced in federal court. Gingerich never appealed, or paid, that fine.

In October of last year, IDALS officials imposed an additional $40,000 in fines against Gingerich based on his continued failure to provide adequate care for his animals. At that time, IDALS took the additional step of revoking, rather than suspending, his ability to operate as a federally permitted dog breeder in Iowa.

Gingerich appealed that penalty, which led to IDALS agreeing to a settlement that reduces the $40,000 fine to $10,000.

Gingerich has more than two years to pay fine

According to the consent order that memorializes the agreement, IDALS’ concessions were made “in order to conserve agency staff time and resources, avoid the uncertainty of litigation (and) bring finality to this matter.” The order also notes that under the consent decree in the federal case, Gingerich is already barred from any future involvement in a business covered by the Animal Welfare Act.

The settlement calls for Gingerich to pay the two fines, which total $30,000, in 10 quarterly installments of $3,000 each, with the first payment due no later than Sept. 22 of this year. The fines must be paid in full by Dec. 31, 2024.

In the two years Gingerich was licensed to breed and sell dogs in Iowa, he amassed more than 100 citations for regulatory violations. Dr. Heather Cole, a supervisory veterinary medical officer for a division of the USDA, stated in a written declaration to the federal court that she had “never encountered a licensee who has this high of a level of chronic and repeat noncompliance across every category of Animal Welfare Act requirements.”

The most serious of the criminal charges against Gingerich were tied to allegations that in April 2021, Gingerich failed to provide adequate veterinary care to an adult golden retriever that was severely emaciated, which resulted in the dog being euthanized, and with the alleged neglect of a golden-doodle puppy that died due to complications related to parvovirus.

The lesser charges were tied the sale of 13 dogs, five of which were later shown to have medical issues. One of the dogs died and four others had serious respiratory issues, including pneumonia.

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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.