More than 500 dogs rescued from breeding facilities in southern Iowa
The groups that rescued 514 dogs from a licensed breeder in Iowa say current policies made it difficult to get the dogs to safety sooner.
The Animal Rescue League of Iowa has been working with federal officials since early October to remove the animals from Daniel Gingerich's facilities across Iowa. The U.S Department of Agriculture found Gingerich had 190 violations under the Animal Welfare Act.
The ARL began removing dogs in smaller groups on Oct. 13 . Then in a two-day operation starting on Nov. 1, the ARL, the USDA, and other partnering organizations removed the rest of the dogs.
At a press conference Thursday, officials detailed some of the conditions at Gingerich's facilities, including dogs living outdoors, dogs with serious, untreated medical injuries problems, like parvovirus, and extreme fur matting. The facilities, both licensed and unlicensed, were scattered across the state, with sites near Hazleton, Seymour, Lamoni and Davis City.
"The dogs in these facilities were not pets. They weren't walked or played with. They didn't have a bed to sleep on or proper food or care. They were kept only to produce puppies, to be sold in pet stores and online," ASPCA senior Robert Hensley said.
Hensley said this situation highlights the need for changes at the USDA at the management and leadership levels.
"The agency already has the authority to confiscate animals that are in distress, to temporarily suspend a licensee's license, to impose penalties, to make referrals to [the Department of Justice] to make criminal referrals as well," he said. "And in this case, it seems like the agency at every turn decided to do something other than take one of those actions.
Hensley said after Gingerich was first licensed in 2019, USDA inspectors couldn't get onto the property that first year.
"You think there'd be some consequences for that, but there were no consequences. Instead, USDA simply renewed his license for a second year, even though they had no idea what was going on in that property," he said.
Hensley announced that the ASPCA will grant the Animal Rescue League $100,000 to help care for the dogs.
Animal Rescue League of Iowa Executive Director Tom Colvin said now the focus is the rescued dogs.
"The rehabilitation started the minute they got out of that loud, cramped area and they are being handled every day by people who care for them as pets," Colvin said.
The dogs have already begun to come out of their shells, but many will need physical and psychological rehabilitation.