ASPCA Commends Federal Lawmakers for Introducing "Goldie's Act" to Protect Dogs in Puppy Mills

New bill seeks to amend the Animal Welfare Act after more than 500 dogs were rescued from a USDA licensed dog breeding facility in Iowa
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 9:33 AM AKST

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) for introducing Goldie's Act, a federal bill to amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which is intended to protect dogs in puppy mills. 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.

ASPCA logo. (PRNewsfoto/ASPCA)
ASPCA logo. (PRNewsfoto/ASPCA)

This lifesaving bill comes on the heels of a particularly disturbing case in Seymour, Iowa, where the ASPCA recently assisted the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) with the rescue of more than 500 dogs and puppies who were living in horrific conditions at a USDA licensed dog breeding facility. Despite observing over 200 violations of the law – including dogs who were sick and dying from injuries and disease, dogs housed in cages that were too small to turnaround, and dogs standing in waste – the USDA continued to permit the licensee, Daniel Gingerich, to operate. The agency never confiscated any dogs who were suffering and never issued any penalties against Gingerich.

This case is part of an ongoing pattern of the USDA failing to enforce the AWA, even when the conditions are extremely poor and dogs are dying. Since 2017, the USDA has observed hundreds of violations of the AWA at licensed puppy mills, yet they have failed to take meaningful action or revoke the license of a single dog breeder, despite overwhelming evidence of cruelty.

Goldie's Act is named in honor of Goldie, also known as "female Golden Retriever #142," who was one of hundreds of dogs who endured prolonged and extreme suffering while in the care of Daniel Gingerich.

  • Goldie's Story: the USDA issued a license to Daniel Gingerich in October 2019 but were 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. In late July, Goldie was found in a barn, along with dead dogs. 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. The USDA issued no penalties for this abhorrent cruelty, and Gingerich continued to buy, sell, and breed dogs while this was taking place.

"Goldie was left to endure prolonged and extreme suffering, and her tragic death is a direct result of the USDA's failure to fulfill its responsibility under the law to protect dogs who are bred and warehoused for the pet trade," said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President & CEO. "Thousands of other dogs are still living in horrific conditions without adequate access to food, water, veterinary care, and exercise, while the USDA stands idly by, allowing violations to go unreported and unpunished. We are grateful to Representatives Axne, Fitzpatrick, Quigley, Malliotakis, Wild, and Buchanan for introducing Goldie's Act to restore welfare to the Animal Welfare Act."

"As a proud dog mom, I have made it my mission in Congress to hold those who abuse our animals accountable – especially in Iowa, where we have some of the worst examples of puppy mills in the entire country. I was appalled to see the images that came out of this Wayne County puppy mill, and even more disgusted to learn that these conditions were known to USDA for months – in clear violation of the laws we already have in place to protect our companion animals," said Rep. Axne. "If one breeder can rack up nearly 200 violations of the Animal Welfare Act with impunity, then it's clear there are loopholes in current law that need to be addressed. With Goldie's Act, we make the puppies that suffered here in Iowa the face of this commonsense law that says there are no slaps on the wrist for breaking the law. We must ensure bad actors are held accountable by USDA and that our law is crystal clear on what should be done to promote animal welfare."

"As a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I have long championed legislation that promotes animal welfare," said Rep. Fitzpatrick. "I am proud to join Rep. Axne in introducing this bipartisan legislation that will enforce protections under the Animal Welfare Act and hold animal abusers accountable, ensuring that they receive penalties equal to the animal cruelty violations they commit."

"Time and time again, my office and I have been approached to intervene in situations of inhumane treatment of animals by breeders, handlers, and other USDA licensees who brazenly flout the legal requirements of the Animal Welfare Act," said Rep. Quigley. "It is time to hold bad actors accountable and ensure the USDA has every tool necessary to enforce the AWA. I'm proud to join Representative Axne in cosponsoring Goldie's Act, which will strengthen AWA enforcement and will go a long way towards ending the worst animal welfare violations, ensuring all animals live in health and safety."

"Protecting animal welfare has been a priority of mine since my time in the New York State Assembly," said Congresswoman Malliotakis. "I'm proud to continue to protect those without a voice by joining my colleagues in introducing legislation that would require the USDA to publicly report all animal welfare violations, remove animals from abusive environments and hold animal abusers accountable once and for all with strict penalties."

"The Animal Rescue League of Iowa calls on the USDA to address the issues within their system that allows dogs to suffer like they did in the Gingerich case," said Tom Colvin, CEO at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. "Local law enforcement with limited resources shouldn't be expected to step in to stop the suffering in a facility that conducts business under USDA regulations. We thank Representative Axne for introducing Goldie's Act to address and bring attention to this paralysis of federal oversight."

ARL and the ASPCA, with the support of many other organizations, worked tirelessly to remove hundreds of dogs and puppies from Daniel Gingerich's properties. Several of these dogs have already been placed with shelters and rescue groups across the country so that they can be made available for fostering and adoption, but many others remain in the care of ARL and the ASPCA, where they continue to receive specialized treatment and care and can be assessed by veterinary forensic and behavior experts. Such a significant expenditure of time and resources, by so many animal protection agencies and local shelters who are already stretched thin helping animals in need, was required due to the USDA's failure to enforce the law. With the passage of Goldie's Act, avoidable animal suffering and the diversion of urgently-needed rescue funds can be prevented in the future.

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.

For more information about the ASPCA or to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.

About the ASPCA®

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first animal welfare organization to be established in North America and today serves as the nation's leading voice for vulnerable and victimized animals. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation with more than two million supporters nationwide, the ASPCA is committed to preventing cruelty to dogs, cats, equines, and farm animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA assists animals in need through on-the-ground disaster and cruelty interventions, behavioral rehabilitation, animal placement, legal and legislative advocacy, and the advancement of the sheltering and veterinary community through research, training, and resources. For more information, visit www.ASPCA.org, and follow the ASPCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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