Six bipartisan U.S. Representatives introduced a bill that would amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in an effort to finally put an end to the horrific conditions in commercial dog breeding facilities.
This legislation is a needed response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) abject failure to enforce the AWA and consistent pattern of abdicating its duties, which has led to untold animal suffering. The bill will require more frequent and meaningful inspections, confiscation of dogs who are suffering, imposition of deterring monetary penalties against licensees who violate the law and require the USDA to share information with law enforcement agencies.
The bill is called “Goldie’s Act.” It was named after a Golden Retriever that died under the care of Iowa puppy mill owner Daniel Gingerich, who amassed 200+ violations of the Animal Welfare Act in just two years that he ran the breeding facility.
Goldie, also known as “female Golden Retriever #142,” was one of the hundreds of dogs who endured prolonged and extreme suffering while in the care of Gingerich.
The USDA issued a breeding license to Daniel Gingerich in October 2019 but was denied access to inspect his facilities until April 2021. When they finally gained access to his property, USDA inspectors found – but did not record on the official inspection report – a Golden Retriever who was later described in a complaint by the U.S. Department of Justice as “extremely emaciated.” Federal inspectors saw Goldie twice after that, and noted her deteriorating condition, but did nothing.
The USDA allowed Goldie to suffer and deteriorate for months, even though they had the authority to halt the abuse and are directed by the AWA to protect dogs in breeding facilities.
In late July, Goldie was found in a barn, along with dead dogs, where Gingerich had apparently put her in an attempt to hide her condition from inspectors. She had no water, her bones were protruding, she had sores on her body and zero body fat. According to state inspection reports, a veterinarian was called, and USDA inspectors allowed her to be euthanized on-site.
Still, the USDA issued no penalties for this abhorrent cruelty, and Gingerich continued to buy, sell, and breed dogs while this was taking place.
Gingerich, doing business as Maple Hill Puppies, continued to operate until he faced a civil court case in September 2021. As a result of that case, Gingerich was ordered to cease operations and surrendered 514 dogs to The Animal Rescue League of Iowa.
The USDA is responsible for ensuring their licensees follow the law, and when they choose to allow violations to go unreported and unpunished, the agency contributes to animal suffering. Earlier this year, the ASPCA filed a lawsuit demanding that the USDA stop using misguided policies that protect licensees over the welfare of animals.
And, on December 1, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) along with co-sponsors Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) introduced new legislation to close enforcement loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act. The bill could finally put an end to existing and future cruelty, abuse, and neglect at the hands of commercial breeders and USDA-licensed puppy mills.
Over the past six years, enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has dropped by nearly 90%, and no penalties have been imposed by USDA against commercial dog dealers since 2017. This is a result of USDA creating loopholes in enforcement practices that allow AWA violations to go unreported.
Goldie’s Act would eliminate those loopholes and explicitly require USDA to:
• Conduct more frequent and meaningful inspections,
• Confiscate animals that are suffering,
• Impose penalties for violations, and
• Share inspection information in a timely manner with local law enforcement.
The bipartisan measure has the support of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) & the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).