Puppy mill owner agrees to a permanent ban on breeding, selling dogs

Source: Iowa Capital Dispatch | Clark Kauffman

A Wayne County puppy mill operator has agreed to surrender his remaining 513 dogs and could soon be permanently barred from engaging in any federally licensed animal-welfare activities.

Court records indicate Daniel Gingerich of Maple Hill Puppies and lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice have reached a formal agreement on how to resolve a civil case in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has sought to shut down his Iowa dog-breeding operations due to dozens of animal-welfare violations.

The agreement, which still must be approved by the court before it is considered a final judgment in the case, stipulates that Gingerich “shall permanently refrain from any activity requiring an Animal Welfare Act license,” which would including breeding, selling, brokering and exhibiting animals.

As part of the deal, Gingerich has agreed to relinquish all of the dogs in his custody.

The agreement indicates he currently owns 513 dogs at five separate locations in rural Iowa:

— 3125 Davis Road, Seymour, in Wayne County: There are 275 dogs, including cocker spaniels, corgis, labradoodles and poodles at this site. This property is owned by Gingerich.

— 3002 Highway 2, Promise City, in Wayne County: There are nine dogs, including cavaliers and poodles, at this site. This property is owned by Nathan Nisley.

— 25318 Elk Chapel Road, Lamoni, in Decatur County: There are 161 dogs, including pomskies (a cross between a Pomeranian and Siberian husky), goldendoodles and Pekingese, at this site. This property is owned by Tobie and Amanda Yoder.

— 12340 240th St., Lamoni, in Decatur County: There are 55 dogs, including huskies and beagles, at this site. This property is owned by Jacob and Emma Stutzman.

— 1405 120th St., Hazleton, in Buchanan County: There are 13 dogs, mostly golden retrievers and corgis, at this site. This property is owned by William and Miriam Yoder.

According to court records, Gingerich was recently housing dogs at a sixth site in Iowa: 28920 188th Ave., Davis City, in Decatur County, which is owned by Eli and Saloma Yoder.

Some of the 513 dogs itemized in the agreement have already been surrendered to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. More are expected to be surrendered Monday. The agreement appears to have no impact on the $20,000 civil penalty that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has imposed against Gingerich for more than 100 violations of the Animal Welfare Act.On Oct. 8, Gingerich was ordered by the court to surrender all dogs in his possession that were in acute distress and in need of medical care.

At a subsequent Oct. 18 hearing, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose denied Gingerich’s request to transfer all of his remaining dogs to the Love Pet Project, a self-described “rescue” group based in Zionsville, Indiana. The DOJ had asked that the dogs be transferred to the Animal Rescue League, a position that Rose said she agreed with.

Gingerich had objected to that proposal, with his attorney telling the court Gingerich “simply prefers that the ARL not have involvement” in the case. The ARL has declined to comment on the case.

Gingerich has not been charged with any criminal violations of Iowa’s animal welfare laws, despite the USDA alleging that he “repeatedly failed to meet the minimum standards of care for his dogs on adequate nutrition, potable water and veterinary care, resulting in unnecessary suffering and death.”

Dr. Heather Cole, a supervisory veterinary medical officer for a division of the USDA, stated in a recent declaration to the court that she has “never encountered a licensee who has this high of a level of chronic and repeat noncompliance across every category of Animal Welfare Act requirements.” Cole added that Gingerich’s facilities “are the all-around least compliant facilities” she has ever encountered.

The USDA claims that in order to avoid oversight and inspection, Gingerich had attempted to hide sick dogs from the agency’s inspectors. In one instance, federal inspectors directed Gingerich to seek immediate veterinary care for a dog found in poor condition. Instead of doing so, inspectors reported Gingerich tried to hide the dog during follow-up inspections, in part by placing the animal in what the USDA called “a filthy horse stall” that was covered in a “thick layer of dirt, horse manure, and dog feces.”

During another inspection, a USDA official noticed that a poodle puppy was gasping for breath and occasionally crying out. When the inspector removed the poodle from its enclosure, the puppy rolled his head upward. A USDA medical officer examined the puppy and confirmed it had just died.

Court records show that on Sept. 4, a rescue organization purchased 13 dogs from Gingerich, including 10 puppies and three adults. Three of the dogs were in such poor condition they required emergency veterinary care and one of the puppies died.