This emaciated golden retriever was found inside a horse stall in an Iowa dog-breeding facility run by Daniel Gingerich. Federal officials say Gingerich placed dogs there in an effort to hide them from inspectors. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits)

A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against an Iowa dog breeder described by regulators as one of the nation’s biggest repeat violators.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose issued the order this week, just one day after the U.S. Department of Agriculture brought suit against Daniel Gingerich, formerly of Seymour, for numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The agency claims that in the two years since it issued Gingerich a license to breed and sell dogs in Iowa, he has amassed more than 100 citations for violations of the act.

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.

Federal records indicate Gingerich is operating kennels or breeding facilities in 10 different locations throughout Iowa, several of which are unlicensed. One unlicensed facility, where dogs allegedly went without water for three days, is in Redding, and others are in Lamoni and Cantril. Gingerich’s main base of operations appears to be in Seymour, where he lived before moving to Ohio in May, according to court records.

Although it’s not clear how many dogs Gingerich owns, the records suggest that at one time this year, he had at least 1,000 dogs and puppies on hand.

Court records indicate he does business as Maple Hill Puppies.

Mindi Callison of the animal-advocacy group Bailing Out Benji said the organization is thankful the USDA seems poised to revoke Gingerich’s license.

“However, we are very saddened that the Wayne County sheriff and the state of Iowa have neglected to press animal cruelty or neglect charges against this person for their crimes,” she said. “There could very well be animals still suffering on his various properties and our state needs to take action to rescue them and provide them with the care they deserve.”

Callison noted that Iowa law doesn’t allow state agriculture inspectors to routinely inspect federally licensed breeding facilities, which is not the case in Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Kansas.

“It makes me concerned about how many more cases like this could be happening in Iowa,” Callison said. “We need local oversight to provide further protection for the animals in these licensed facilities.”

In issuing the temporary restraining order, Rose stated that the court record indicates many of the dogs in Gingerich’s facilities are in dire need of veterinary care.

Some of the dogs have severe illnesses or are emaciated, she stated, and there is evidence Gingerich does not follow any program of veterinary care for the animals.

“The medical care the dogs receive appears to be shockingly inadequate,” Rose wrote in her ruling. “The food and water provided to the dogs at defendant’s facilities appear to be no better than the medical care they receive … The court will not belabor the revolting quality of the food inspectors described in their citations but among some of the violations are food that is moldy, deteriorating or (has) excessive amount of wood shavings.”

Rose’s order requires Gingerich to provide federal authorities with a list of every location at which he has any dogs intended for breeding or sale; to provide authorities with a complete animal inventory for each location; and to ensure that within two weeks every dog listed on the inventory receives a “complete physical examination from head to tail.”

Rose stipulated that the veterinary care provided as a result of the order must be provided by someone other than Gingerich’s regular vet, Dr. William McClintock, or any of the other vets working at the Country Village Animal Clinic in Centerville. Rose noted that McClintock’s disciplinary history “casts a shadow” on his conduct.

Asked during a phone call about that element of the judge’s order, McClintock told the Iowa Capital Dispatch, “You’ll have to talk to somebody else,” and hung up.

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 on-line course in moral, ethical and legal decision-making, and his license was placed on probation for two years.

Gingerich has not yet filed a response to the court action.

With the restraining order granted, the USDA has said it hopes to extend the order through a court-approved preliminary injunction

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service suspended Gingerich’s license on Sept. 7, and on Sept. 24 it filed an administrative complaint seeking permanent revocation of that license.

In that notice, APHIS said that when it asked Gingerich for the addresses of all his unlicensed facilities in Iowa, he provided only two addresses, then said could not remember the location of the others and that some were “not ready” to be inspected.

Court records indicate Gingerich then denied APHIS inspectors access to certain sites, preventing them from assessing the welfare of the dogs.

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

According to the USDA, Gingerich has “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.” The agency says Gingerich’s “indifference to the well-being of his dogs is apparent in his failure to remove even dead dogs from his facility. In a recent inspection, APHIS inspectors discovered two dead dogs amongst the dogs that Gingerich was hiding in horse stalls.”

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

The USDA claims that many of the unhealthy dogs observed by APHIS inspectors are suffering from treatable or preventable conditions, such as malnutrition, Parvovirus and distemper. The agency says that Gingerich, rather than spend the money on much-needed medical care for the animals, “allowed dogs to die without being treated by a licensed veterinarian or he has elected to euthanize them.”

The USDA says that last year, on three occasions, APHIS inspectors were unable to access a Gingerich kennel located at 3125 Davis Road in Seymour. After gaining access in March of this year, the agency cited Gingerich for more than 100 violations. Among them: failure to provide adequate veterinary care to hundreds of the dogs and puppies; failure to adequately maintain records for numerous dogs; and failure to meet the minimum housing requirements for dogs.

He also is accused of failing to maintain or turn over complete and accurate records pertaining to the whereabouts of more than 450 dogs. Gingerich’s recordkeeping is so lacking the USDA says it’s difficult to identify specific dogs and trace their location.

As for the unapproved, unlicensed locations where dogs are being held, the USDA says that in June it attempted to inspect one such site in Lamoni and a worker there, John Stutzman, told inspectors Gingerich had ordered him not to allow access to the premises.

When USDA officials contacted Gingerich and informed him of the consequences of refusing to grant inspectors access, he allegedly replied, “Just cite me for refusing the inspection.”

During an inspection in August, inspectors found numerous dogs in visibly poor health, including a female cocker spaniel with one eyeball sunken into her head and the other eye inflamed.

They also found a severely underweight poodle with muscle wasting in its hind legs; an Australian shepherd with severely matted hair and multiple lesions; and an English Springer spaniel with hair loss and fresh blood oozing from open lesions. None of the dogs had been evaluated by a licensed veterinarian, the USDA says.

During the visit, one inspector noticed that a poodle puppy was gasping for breath and occasionally crying out. When the inspector removed the poodle from its enclosure, the puppy jerked his head and then rolled his head upward. An APHIS medical officer examined the puppy and confirmed that it had just died.

During the past two years, APHIS inspectors repeatedly cited Gingerich for providing his dogs with food that was coated in mold, or food that was contaminated with excessive amounts of wood shavings.

Inspectors also cited Gingerich on numerous occasions for failing to provide dogs with drinkable water. One golden doodle and her five puppies had no available water in their enclosure, and all immediately drank once water was presented, according to USDA records.

“When there was available water, it was contaminated with dirt and pieces of green floating algae … and contained a buildup of brown sediment and debris,” the USDA alleges.

During a July visit, inspectors found the decaying carcass of a miniature Australian shepherd a few feet away from the fence surrounding an outdoor enclosure. There were holes dug underneath the fence that were covered using makeshift materials, including boards and wire. When questioned about the dead dog, Gingerich’s employee indicated the animal had crawled under the fence and was attacked and killed by dogs in the adjacent enclosure.

Many of the buildings in Gingerich’s facilities have drains that flow directly into outdoor enclosures where other dogs were kept. The drains have created “large, thick piles of wet fecal and food waste,” the USDA alleges. During one visit, inspectors observed a golden retriever whose coat was entirely wet and covered in feces.

Many of the enclosures for dogs contain a thick, heavy buildup of spilled and moldy food; contaminated, soiled straw bedding infiltrated by insect colonies; cages that have sharp, protruding points that can injure a dog; flooring with large gaps or holes through a dog’s leg can fall; and large amounts of waste with excessive flies.

Inspectors conducted one visit when a heat advisory was in place and found a number of dogs showing signs of severe heat stress. A female poodle was confined to a transport crate that was sitting on a driveway in direct sunlight. The dog was panting and began crying out while she was observed by inspectors. At the time, the heat index was 119 degrees.

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