116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
An Iowa dog breeder hoarded 500 sick, malnourished dogs in unsanitary conditions, feds say: 'Shocking cruelty'
The poodle panted and whined as the scorching sun beat down on the southern Iowa driveway this past summer. The heat index reached 119 degrees, and the dog sat caged in a transport crate for what could have been hours, investigators said.
It was even hotter inside, where puppies yelped — their heart rates high and frantic. Water bowls held brown liquid; flies circled moldy food; gnats and other bugs infested straw beds; and water leaked from the ceiling onto the gaping floorboards, soaking stray wood shavings, according to a federal indictment.
Daniel Gingerich hoarded more than 500 dogs throughout his multiple properties in Southern Iowa’s Seymour, west of Centerville, which were all in equally poor condition, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said last week.
In a federal indictment filed in late September accusing Gingerich of violating the Animal Welfare Act, prosecutors described in graphic detail the dead, malnourished and injured dogs found on his properties.
The puppy mill operator agreed last Tuesday to surrender all his animals. He now is permanently banned from breeding and selling dogs, according to court documents. It is unclear if or when he is due back in court.
Gingerich, whose lawyer did not respond to a request for comment, received a breeding license in October 2019 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for monitoring and inspecting breeder and broker facilities. According to the ASPCA, Gingerich's indictment is the latest example of the USDA's failed oversight of breeders. The nonprofit sued the department in June for failing to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, a 1966 federal law meant to ensure animals' safety.
ASPCA leaders allege the USDA allowed breeders' violations to go unreported and unpunished. The nonprofit claims unfit dog dealers had not been penalized since 2017, despite evidence of abuse.
Gingerich's “shocking cruelty is a predictable result of the USDA … allowing the very animals they have a legal and moral obligation to protect to endure prolonged and extreme suffering," Robert Hensley, legal advocacy senior counsel for the ASPCA, said in a statement.
The USDA did not respond to a request for comment.
In the two years after Gingerich received his permit, he was slapped with at least 100 citations for not following the federal act. The majority of write-ups were issued after March, according to the indictment. The USDA then suspended his license for 21 days in September. That same month, the department moved to permanently revoke Gingerich's license.
Federal prosecutors said inspectors with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services repeatedly were denied access to Gingerich's facilities between the winter and spring of 2020. It wasn't until this past March that they gained access, according to the indictment. They returned in April, May, July and September.
But Gingerich, investigators say, was repeatedly non-compliant when inspectors requested information about where the dogs were being held and for access to the facilities to confirm their welfare. He also failed to "provide adequate veterinary care, nutrition, and a safe environment to those dogs," court documents said.
Gingerich hid sickly dogs in a horse stall contaminated with dirt, horse manure and dog feces, federal investigators allege. But inspectors noticed a golden retriever in the stable was one they previously instructed Gingerich to take to a veterinarian. When they returned, the dog was in an "emaciated state," according to the indictment. Inspectors also found dead dogs on the property near the horse stalls that once hid them.
"Gingerich's indifference to the well-being of the dogs is apparent in his failure to remove even dead dogs from his facility," prosecutors said.
Several dogs were suffering from treatable and preventable conditions, according to court documents. USDA employees witnessed dogs with matted hair that came off in patches or with skin covered in lesions. They also saw puppies gasping for air. During an August visit, inspectors witnessed a poodle puppy die.
They inspected one dog with dark brown tartar-covered teeth, another with sunken muscles and two with overgrown toenails, causing them pain. There was also a "lethargic, depressed golden retriever … whose extremities, including her ears, were cold to touch, though her body felt hot," the indictment said.
Gingerich broke protocol by not recording several dog sales, court documents state, and did not keep medical records that breeders are required to keep for at least one year following veterinarian appointments.
Many dogs were allegedly covered in fleas and bugs. They ate moldy food from unsanitary bowls, drank dirty water and lived among dog feces-covered and urine-saturated floors, investigators reported. Their bedding was "dark in color, wet, dirty, and moldy," according to court documents.
"There are gaps between the boards of the floors wide enough that the legs of both the puppies and adult dogs will easily fall through them and thus creates the potential to cause serious injury to the animals," the indictment said.
In September, a rescue organization purchased 10 puppies and three adult dogs from Gingerich. They found they were in "poor condition," some requiring emergency care.
"One puppy died of Parvovirus, a highly contagious disease easily preventable by an appropriate vaccine regime, as required under the AWA," according to the indictment.
The Animal Rescue League of Iowa and the ASPCA are working to remove, transport and shelter the more than 500 puppies and adult dogs surrendered by Gingerich. The organizations began the rescue process Oct. 14, according to the ASPCA, and transported about 30 animals in medical distress. More than 200 were rescued over the course of several days.
"Our hearts broke when we learned of the situation so many dogs are living through," Geoff Hall, president of Wayside Waifs, a nonprofit assisting with the rescue, said in a statement. " … We're extremely grateful to have the ability to help our animal welfare colleagues save these dogs' lives."