Iowa puppy mill operator sentenced to probation for animal neglect

By: - July 27, 2023 4:45 pm

This dog was photographed by a federal inspector during a 2021 visit to Henry Sommers’ Happy Puppy kennel in Cincinnati, Iowa. (USDA photo, courtesy of Bailing Out Benji)

An Appanoose County man accused of animal neglect in the operation of a puppy mill has been sentenced to two years of probation.

Henry Sommers, the 84-year-old owner of Happy Puppy on 141st Avenue in the town of Cincinnati, was arrested in February by the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Office. Sommers was charged with seven separate offenses: two counts of animal neglect resulting in serious injury or death, three counts of animal neglect resulting in injury, and two counts of animal neglect without injury.

The Appanoose County Attorney’s Office then negotiated a plea agreement that resulted in five of the seven charges being dismissed in return for a guilty plea on the two felony charges of animal neglect resulting in serious injury or death.

Sommers was recently sentenced to two years in prison, with that sentence suspended by the court. He was ordered to serve two years of probation and pay $1,710 in fines.

Henry Sommers, the owner of Appanoose County’s Happy Puppy dog-breeding operation. (Photo courtesy of the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Office)

The charges stemmed from an investigation that began when the sheriff’s office fielded a complaint of potential animal neglect at Sommers’ business. During the investigation, officials observed four dogs living in what the sheriff’s office described as “an unhealthy environment.” The arrest report indicates a deputy found feces in a food bowl, and “piles of excrement in with the dogs, as well as a pile of waste underneath them.”

A veterinarian allegedly determined that at least one of the dogs had a large abscess on one shoulder, and two of the dogs needed to be bathed and shaved immediately. According to the deputy’s report, the veterinarian reported having seen some of Sommers’ dogs on a previous occasion, and that one of the animals had a lump on the stomach and the other had dental issues, both of which required surgical intervention.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the federal and state agencies that share oversight of commercial breeders, have cited Sommers for multiple regulatory violations, according to the records from the agencies.

Federal regulators cited Sommers for failing to provide adequate veterinary care to his dogs in September 2019, September 2021, January 2022, April 2022 and August 2022. He has been among the Humane Society of the United States’ “Horrible Hundred” – an annual, national list of dog breeders with serious violations – on at least five occasions.

Sommers’ veterinarian, Dr. William McClintock of Country Village Animal Clinic in Centerville, was also the vet for Daniel Gingerich, an Iowa puppy mill operator who faced federal animal neglect charges in 2021. 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 2017, McClintock was fined $5,000 by the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine for allegedly forging signatures on forms and for knowingly making untrue statements. He was also ordered to take an online course in moral, ethical and legal decision-making, and his license was placed on probation for two years.

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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.