DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa currently has more than 300 puppy mills in the state, according to animal rights advocates at Bailing Out Benji, and the Humane Society of the United States highlighted 13 of those Iowa dog breeders in its annual Horrible Hundred list.
“The USDA isn’t doing anything to stop these problematic breeders, the state of Iowa isn’t doing anything to stop these problematic breeders and when we try at the Capitol to help and get laws passed, we are stopped as advocates and as animal lovers. That’s the most disheartening thing that every year we look at this same list. The names might change but the violations do not and those animals are still suffering every single year,” Executive Director and Founder of Bailing out Benji Mindi Callison said.
In the Horrible Hundred report, it cites inspection reports from the USDA and the State of Iowa describing problems like unsanitary conditions and a lack of veterinary care.
Julie Roberts, the owner of Sunshine Cavaliers, is one Iowa breeder on the list. She said the inspector caught them on a bad day and noted what she believes to be other discrepancies with what was said about her in the report.
“I am a one-person operation and when the state came in, my rooms were at their worst due to extenuating circumstances that are not the norm. This is the first I’ve heard of a vermin problem. I have never seen a mouse or droppings. As far as adequate enclosures, I don’t keep them in crates except to feed them or when I need to keep them separated, otherwise they have dog doors to get outside to run around and play whenever they want. So yes they do track in. They are vet checked and have necessary treatments as needed. My dogs are well fed and taken care of. I have not been breeding since 1969, I wasn’t even in high school then. I have only been breeding dogs for eight years, so I don’t know where they got that operation from,” Roberts said.
Another breeder on the list, Nelson’s Cattle Dogs, also responded to Channel 13 News with a statement, “We were indeed reported to the Iowa Department of Agriculture around that time for sick puppies and we did have our inspector come out to look at our place again. I told her about the one puppy that did have a cough and he was taken to the vet the next day and he was given an antibiotic shot and his cough cleared up within a couple days. Our momma dog did indeed have some runny poop which was from being switched over the eating the puppy food which cleared up within a week. Our dogs were outside but have very insulated dog houses and they had some hay in them. Our dogs are on pea gravel which was okayed by our inspector and when it got cold out the pea gravel did freeze together and have ice on top which made it hard to clean (this was our first winter with our dogs being out of the barn and on pea gravel). When we got a lot of snow and the temperatures were negative all our dogs were brought into our garage and put in kennels to keep them out of the freezing cold and keep them warm. Our puppies had a 10×10 kennel in our garage with bedding and a house to sleep in along with toys to play with. We are making progress on what was asked by our inspector, we have talked to a couple people about getting a building built up around our dog pens which will be done before September of this year. They do have a roof over them now and a windbreak. They will all be getting new dog houses before this winter as well. Our puppies have all been in their homes for awhile now and we have not had one complaint on the puppies being sick, having respiratory issues, having diarrhea or any other issues, their new families are very happy with their puppies from me. We are not going to let one complaint bring us down and we work hard everyday to improve things for our dogs. Our adult dogs are now health tested, they are regularly kept utd on their shots and deworming and they get daily exercise.”
Animal rights advocates said they believe many of the responses in these types of situations are excuses.
“These breeders aren’t on the Horrible Hundred puppy mill list because they had one dirty inspection report. Everybody has a bad day. Like we can all go home and see that our houses are dirty, but are our houses ever dirty enough that the state would come in and write up violations because of the fecal matter on the ground or the dogs not getting vet care,” Callison said.
The Animal Rescue League of Iowa Executive Director Tom Colvin said the state historically makes this list because there aren’t any laws in place that crack down on animal abuse and neglect.
“We are just basically turning a blind eye to animal abuse and neglect and torture in the state of Iowa. That’s kind of what is being said to the rest of the country and even other Iowans of how we are looking at it if we don’t have those laws,” Colvin said.
Colvin said he’s still not exactly sure why HF737 did not make it all the way through the legislature during this session, but they will continue working with legislators next session.
Callison said there were people in the breeding community that were fighting this legislation.
“What we found is the Iowa Pet Breeders Association and their legislative armor was at the Capitol every single day trying to fight what we were doing because they wanted to be exempt from torture and cruelty laws. Many of the breeders on the horrible hundred list are members of the Iowa Pet Breeders Association and as you are going through those violations and inspections you can see those breeders are refusing to do vet care, basic veterinary care on their dogs and that’s something that that law would have passed here in Iowa, would have stopped,” Callison said.
She added, not all breeders are participating in bad practices but warns the public who choose to purchase from breeders to do their research, visit the location and meet the parents of the puppy they are thinking about buying. Rescuers also want to urge people thinking about a pet to adopt from a shelter rather than purchasing from a breeder.