Report calls out 15 Iowa puppy mills for dog welfare violations

Three photos from puppy mills taken by the USDA, laid out with one on the side and two stacked. Left image is a dog in a pen with moldy water. Top image is a dog with a bulging, infected eye with a gloved hand presenting the dog's face to the camera. Bottom image is a dog's paw with a large wound, presented to the camera.

Left: a dog at the Korver kennel in Orange City. USDA, 2023. Top: a dog at Steve Kruse's facility. USDA, 2022. Bottom: wound on a dog at Steve Kruse's facility. USDA, 2022. Photos downloaded from the Humane Society of the United States.

By Nikoel Hytrek

April 30, 2024

A new report highlights Iowa puppy mills with documented animal welfare violations.

Fifteen Iowa dog breeding operations have been called out for animal welfare violations. Nine are repeat offenders. Four have been in the report at least half a dozen times.

The annual “Horrible Hundred” puppy mills report is compiled by the Humane Society of the United States, and the list is created by searching federal and state inspection records.

“Despite the egregious violations documented, many of these breeders face no significant penalties, leaving the public in the dark about where their puppies come from,” said Preston Moore, Iowa state director for the Humane Society of the United States, in an emailed release.

Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding businesses that prioritizes breeding over animal well-being. They typically practice quick breeding and keep the dogs and puppies in bad, neglectful conditions with a lack of veterinary care.

For example, Ed Van Doorn of Squaw Creek Kennels in Barnes City was found to be doing neutering surgeries on puppies without veterinary supervision, and in a room used for other purposes. He was cited by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) but wasn’t penalized. It is Van Doorn’s first time in the “Horrible Hundred” report.

Puppy mills often supply to pet stores like Petland—the only national chain of pet stores in the United States that still sells puppies—so people looking to adopt dogs from Petland locations may not know where their puppy came from.

There is only one Petland in Iowa—in Iowa City—and owners Ron and Wendy Solsrud were adamant their store “does not work with any of the breeders on the Horrible Hundred Breeders list,” they said in an email to Starting Line.

“We are very passionate about where our puppies come from and their quality of life,” the Solsruds said. “We make sure all of our dogs come from USDA licensed and inspected breeders that have no direct violations.”

Iowa frequently shows up on the Horrible Hundred list, and this year is the third-worst in the country—behind only Missouri, with 23 dealers in the report, and Ohio with 20. The Humane Society notes the list isn’t comprehensive because many breeding operations aren’t inspected.

“This report, showing problems all-too common in puppy mills, exposes failures in regulatory oversight and underscores the urgent need for breeders to be held accountable and for the public to avoid buying puppies from pet stores or any outlet that obscures the reality of their upbringing,” Moore said.

The Humane Society has long criticized the USDA’s inspections and licensing process.

Most of the violations for Iowa puppy mills involve unsafe, unsanitary conditions, dogs without records of veterinary care, histories of evading inspectors, and injured and/or dead dogs.

The 15 Iowa breeders on the “Horrible Hundred” puppy mills list:

Steve Kruse—Stonehenge Kennel, West Point:
Very big puppy mill has been found with more than 140 sick or injured dogs since 2015. Was suspended by the USDA for 21 days in March 2023. Has a long history of violations.
Seventh time in the report.

Helene Hamrick—Wolf Point Kennel, Ackworth:
Veterinary care violations including ignored infections and wounds. Inspectors have found unsafe and dirty conditions. Issues have been recurring for at least a decade.
Seventh time in the report.

Connie and Harold Johnson—Furbabies Forever (formerly CW’s Quaint Critters), Melvin:
Recurring sanitation and housing concerns. Has a long history of evading inspections, including by cancelling its USDA license before inspection occurred. Still licensed by the state.
Seventh time in the report.

Bruce Hooyer—JKLM Farm aka Shaggy Hill Farm, Sioux Center:
Inspectors observed various sanitation issues including feces buildup and rust. There had not been documentation of a recent vet inspection. Has had issues since 2017, when inspectors noted several dogs had died at the operation.
Sixth time in the report.

Dennis and Donna Van Wyk—Prairie Lane Kennel, New Sharon:
Dirty conditions, lack of water, exposure to cold, recurring issues dating back to 2015.
Fifth time in the report.

Charles Vogl—SCW Frenchies, Atlantic:
Dirty conditions, unsafe structures, strong odors in buildings.
Third time in the report.

Larry Albrecht—Coldwater Kennel, Greene:
Has had USDA violations for at least four years in a row. Many of his violations include multiple dogs who needed veterinary care and poor conditions.
Second time in the report.

Heath “Rex” Meyers—Century Farm Puppies, Grundy Center:
Failed inspections repeatedly, evidence of performing his own vet care, lack of proper vet care, too-small living conditions.
Second time in the report.

Joel Paris—Paris Puppies Paradise, Ogden:
Had 100 dogs removed from property in September 2023. Dogs were noted as underweight with dirty conditions. Pled guilty in April 2024 for “animal neglect resulting in death” and “animal neglect resulting in injury.” Seems to still be in business.
Second time in the report.

Wuanita Swedlund, Cantril:
Forced to downsize after puppies died in the cold, lack of space led to aggressive behavior resulting in deaths, associations with Steve Kruse.
First time in the report.

Freeman P. Helmuth—Sunrise Kennels, Corydon:
Lack of proper vet care.
First time in the report.

Linda, Stanley and Bethany Korver, Orange City:
Lack of proper vet care, dirty conditions.
First time in the report.

Patti Kowitz—Tannin Border Collies, aka Wapsi River Wirehaired Pointing Griffons, Calamus:
State inspectors found strong odors at three inspections, only one person caring for nearly 60 dogs and insufficient shelter.
First time in the report.

Terry Yoder—BR’s Dobermans, Riverside:
Dirty, unsafe conditions. Holes in the floor and living spaces covered in dirt and feces. Mouse feces found throughout the facility.
First time in the report.

This story was updated to include comment from the owners of Petland in Iowa City.

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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