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Iowa veterinary board imposes no public discipline in puppy mill case
Newly disclosed records indicate 199 surrendered dogs were euthanized in one day
Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
Mar. 11, 2023 6:00 am, Updated: Mar. 13, 2023 6:42 pm
The state board that oversees Iowa’s veterinarians will be taking no public disciplinary action against the veterinarian connected with the Daniel Gingerich puppy mill case.
In the past five years, the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine has imposed public disciplinary action against only three veterinarians. The last time the board took any such action was in March 2021.
The Gingerich case dates to 2021 when a federal judge issued a restraining order against the Wayne County dog breeder, citing more than 100 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Gingerich subsequently surrendered 500 dogs, and state officials imposed $30,000 in fines against him.
Dr. Heather Cole, a supervisory veterinary medical officer for a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told a judge she had “never encountered a licensee who has this high of a level of chronic and repeat noncompliance across every category of Animal Welfare Act requirements.”
As part of a court order in the federal case, the judge stipulated that the veterinary care provided to Gingerich’s dogs had to be provided by someone other than his regular vet, Dr. William McClintock, or any of the other vets working at the Country Village Animal Clinic in Centerville. Judge Stephanie Rose noted that McClintock’s disciplinary history “cast a shadow” on his conduct.
In March 2022, Mindi Callison of the animal welfare group Bailing Out Benji filed a formal complaint against McClintock with the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine, citing his care of the Gingerich dogs. She also provided the board with more than 100 pages of USDA inspection reports, state inspectors’ reports, and photos showing the condition of the animals McClintock was allegedly treating as Gingerich’s designated veterinarian.
In her complaint to the board, Callison wrote, “On top of the animals that were emaciated, very ill and/or died, either Gingerich or his veterinarian, McClintock, performed a horrific surgery on a golden retriever and sewed her up with fishing line. Another veterinarian in Missouri documented this with photos and videos after the dog was rescued. Gingerich later told a USDA inspector that it was his veterinarian who performed the surgery and not Gingerich himself. We believe that it is the duty of the Iowa Veterinarian Board to look into this to determine who performed that surgery.”
Recently, the board’s executive secretary informed Callison that the board had reviewed her complaint and decided to close the matter without taking any public disciplinary action against McClintock. He indicated that Iowa law prohibits him from elaborating or stating whether a confidential letter of warning might have been issued in the case.
The Gingerich case was notable not only because of the number of dogs and federal violations at issue, but also because the animals’ health and veterinary care was repeatedly called into question by federal inspectors.
Federal records recently obtained by Bailing Out Benji indicate that while Gingerich was under investigation, he transferred more than 200 of his dogs to another Iowa breeder, Steve Kruse, and that 199 of those dogs were euthanized in one day as “incurable.”
“How bad do things have to be before our veterinary board will step in and discipline bad actors?” Callison said Friday. “The fact that the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine saw nothing amiss with McClintock, even after he was told by the USDA that he could no longer be the vet for Gingerich while the department was investigating his more than 200 violations, is extremely concerning.”
Callison noted that McClintock also is listed on government reports as the veterinarian for Henry Sommers, the owner of the Happy Puppy breeding operation in the town of Cincinnati. Sommers, whose business has a long history of regulatory violations, was recently fined $12,600 by the USDA for a string of violations over the past six years.
Five weeks ago, Sommers was criminally charged with seven counts of animal neglect. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and a pretrial conference is scheduled for June 14.
At the Country Village Animal Clinic, a staffer declined to give McClintock a message from the Iowa Capital Dispatch, saying “he’s probably not too interested” in speaking to a reporter.
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.
Board took no action in Cricket Hollow Zoo case
The recent decision in the McClintock case comes just over a year after the board dismissed a complaint in another high-profile case involving mistreatment of animals. That case involved Dr. Ivan Lilienthal of Delhi, Iowa, who served as the vet for Manchester’s Cricket Hollow Zoo, which was eventually ordered closed by an Iowa judge.
In that case, the state board said it would not initiate its own investigation into Lilienthal because no one had filed a complaint and the board only initiated investigations in response to complaints. Under Iowa law, the veterinary board can, “upon its own motion or upon a verified complaint in writing,” initiate proceedings against a licensed veterinarian.
Attorneys for the Animal Legal Defense subsequently filed a detailed, 1,600-word complaint with the board, alleging Lilienthal had violated specific veterinary practice standards, as well as Iowa’s administrative code and criminal statutes, in serving as the official veterinarian for the zoo.
The board refused to even investigate the matter, telling the ALDF only that it lacked jurisdiction to pursue any potential disciplinary action. No further explanation was offered.
In one year, eight animals died at the zoo and Lilienthal was alleged to have failed to perform an autopsy in any of those cases to determine why so many animals were dying.
At a trial dealing with the zoo’s continued operation, Lilienthal testified that he had never read the federal Animal Welfare Act, which governs zoo operations, because it’s “taking information off a piece of paper and you are telling people how to run their life.”
It has been two years since the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine took any public action against any Iowa-licensed veterinarian.
In March 2021, the board fined Cari Van Zweden of Sioux Center $10,000 for repeatedly allowing three unlicensed staffers to perform surgeries, administer vaccinations and diagnose injuries. The board suspended Van Zweden’s license for three months.
This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.