Axne Introduces Legislation To Combat Iowa’s Puppy Mill Problem

Puppy mills have been in the news for months as one Wayne County operator was fined, surrendered more than 500 dogs, had his business shut down, and his license suspended.

Maple Hill Puppies was owned by Daniel Gingerich who was a licensed breeder through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In response, Rep. Cindy Axne introduced legislation Wednesday to close loopholes for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which has declined over the past few years.

Goldie’s Act would require the USDA to conduct more frequent inspections and to make those inspections meaningful by requiring inspectors to document and report all violations, confiscate suffering animals, impose penalties for violations, and share information with law enforcement in a timely manner.

“If one breeder can rack up nearly 200 violations of the Animal Welfare Act with impunity, then it’s clear there are loopholes in current law that need to be addressed,” Axne said in a press release. “We must ensure bad actors are held accountable by USDA and that our law is crystal clear on what should be done to promote animal welfare.”

Goldie’s Act was named in memory of one of the dogs abused at the Wayne County puppy mill owned by Gingerich. Goldie was extremely malnourished and her conditions were never officially reported or noted as a violation of the AWA. She was ultimately euthanized by state veterinarians when she was found emaciated and without water.

Photo of Goldie, released by Axne’s office

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa removed more than 500 dogs from Gingerich’s operation.

“The Animal Rescue League of Iowa calls on the USDA to address the issues within their system that allows dogs to suffer like they did in the Gingerich case,” said Tom Colvin, CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. “Local law enforcement with limited resources shouldn’t be expected to step in to stop the suffering in a facility that conducts business under USDA regulations.”

According to the Humane Society of the United States, Iowa has the third-highest number of puppy mills in the country behind Missouri and Ohio at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

A puppy mill is a commercial dog breeding business that prioritizes breeding over animal well-being. They typically practice quick breeding and keep the dogs and puppies in bad, neglectful conditions.

In recent years, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service changed AWA guidelines, which USDA data suggest weakened enforcement of the act.

The bill is bipartisan and is supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and the Humane Society of the United States.

Goldie’s Act is co-sponsored by Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), and Susan Wild (D-PA).

“Goldie was left to endure prolonged and extreme suffering, and her tragic death is a direct result of the USDA’s failure to fulfill its responsibility under the law to protect dogs who are bred and warehoused for the pet trade,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “Thousands of other dogs are still living in horrific conditions without adequate access to food, water, veterinary care, and exercise, while the USDA stands idly by, allowing violations to go unreported and unpunished. We are grateful to Representatives Axne, Fitzpatrick, Quigley, Malliotakis, Wild, and Buchanan for introducing Goldie’s Act to restore welfare to the Animal Welfare Act.”

Axne has also requested an investigation into the USDA failure at the Wayne County puppy mill.


UPDATE (Dec. 3, 2021, 9:18 a.m.): Update to include statement from ASPCA.


by Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 12/2/21

5 Comments on "Axne Introduces Legislation To Combat Iowa’s Puppy Mill Problem"

  • Thank you very much for this very good story. And please, Nikoel Hytrek and IOWA STARTING LINE, keep an eye on the Daniel Gingerich case. It is NOT supposed to be over!

    Iowans were assured by the Wayne County Sheriff that Gingerich is going to face criminal charges, which Gingerich very much deserves. But that hasn’t happened. If there isn’t any action in the next several weeks, the Wayne County Sheriff needs to be contacted and directly asked when those charges will be filed.

    Gingerich may be hoping that the criminal-charges intention will be forgotten and disappear. But after reading about his long cruel horrendous behavior, some of us Iowans want him to face the consequences he deserves. Criminal charges won’t bring the dead dogs back to life, or make up for the long suffering endured by the hundreds of other dogs. But criminal charges will send a much-needed message that Iowa will no longer tolerate the kind of outrageous animal abuse that Gingerich committed for so long. And after being essentially ignored for so long by the official animal welfare system, those abused animals deserve a little human justice.

  • So when are legislators and congress critters going to get as concerned for humans? One only need read inspection reports for nursing homes and restaurants. Yet, their alarm bells remain silent.

    Let it be an animal, and they hyperventilate. Why ae they valuing animals over humans? Where is their outrage for people??? Where is the outrage that Iowa has the worst nursing home in the nation (Ft. Dodge)?

  • I have seen very little Congressional hyperventilating for animals. As far as I can tell, the Axne bill is a rare exception, not the rule. Maybe your news sources are better than mine.

    From what I read, I would say a lot more advocating is needed for both animals AND people. I was hyperventilating about Gingerich because this is a rare opportunity to punish a really egregious offender. I’ll happily hyperventilate again if an egregiously-offending nursing-home owner provides the same opportunity.

  • When is Iowa going to say enough is enough and ban puppy mills? Since when has it ever been ok to let an animal live in a cramped cage without sufficient food and water? We adopt these beautiful, voiceless creatures who totally rely on us to care for them and they love us without question, yet if anyone saw the deplorable conditions they came from it would make their stomach crawl. It’s time to end this cruelty. Animals do not belong living in a cage, forced to live in filth and in the elements. I would rather adopt an animal from a shelter, knowing I have saved it, than spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on an animal I knew was making some asshole richer.

  • Does anyone have a list of names we can contact regarding shutting down the inhumane puppymills or to get petitions going ?

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