I was all set to begin my research into some of the states that I had read were the worst offenders in the puppy mill industry. Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Ohio were high on the list. The Amish are also known to be very involved, and they have populations in some of these states. Then yesterday, my little furry friend “Buddy” on Facebook brought to my attention the state of Iowa. My research began on the page of the Iowa Animal Welfare Alliance. They are trying to spread the word about this problem in their state.
Iowa is #2 in the nation with over 230 USDA licensed commercial dog breeding kennels, with over 20,000 adult breeding dogs. Only Missouri ranks higher. It is estimated that at least 100,000 dogs are exported annually from Iowa. It is big business there, with millions of dollars in revenue. The IAWA states that even many citizens in Iowa are unaware of how big a problem this is in their state. I saw that to be true by some of the comments on their Facebook page. Why are they unaware? Many of these puppy mills are located on farms, blended in with other farm animals. Typical farm buildings are used to house upwards of 1,000 dogs. Many of these are in disrepair and not suitable for housing dogs. Agriculture is important in Iowa, and as I wrote about in Part 1, farms had to find ways to diversify and breeding dogs is one way they did so.
In the state of Iowa, dogs are not required to have rabies vaccinations, if they are not allowed to “run at large” (and we pretty much know that puppy mill dogs are not allowed to run at all). However, they are kept in kennels exposed to the outdoors, open at the top, where they could be exposed to rabid bats. This is just one facet of their problems there.
Well, didn’t we already establish in Part 2 that the federal Animal Welfare Act was set up to stop some of these things? These kennels in Iowa are licensed and inspected by the USDA! However, if you look at the Facebook page for IAWA, you will see where they name particular breeders who are in violation of the AWA. One kennel had at least 335 adult dogs and 50 puppies when they were inspected. Multiple serious violations were found, MULTIPLE times. These include direct violations, meaning harm is occurring to the dogs. One example: “The Sundowner building had suspended wire flooring on the outside of the building that is sagging between supports. The uneven flooring does not allow for the dogs to stand and/or walk in a normal manner”. Also noted were rusty metal panels, frayed wires, and holes in flooring in several enclosures. There were also health issues with at least 2 dogs on their most recent inspection. They have had 3 inspections between June 2011 and October 2012, with multiple violations, yet they STILL have their state of Iowa permit, and their USDA license.
Clearly, the federal laws are not doing what they are supposed to. And the state laws are also inadequate. At least there are groups now that are trying to raise awareness in Iowa. These include the aforementioned IAWA, as well as Iowa Friends of Companion Animals, Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, and Iowa Animal Advocates United. Plus we have talked about several national groups that are working on the puppy mill problem. If you are on Facebook, please look at and “like”, then share, the page for IAWA. They are trying to get the word out, and we can help.
It probably doesn’t help that Iowa has a congressman, Steve King, who is known for his poor voting record on animal welfare issues. He has spoken out in favor of dog fighting, and has opposed many animal welfare laws, including one to include pets in disaster plans. The Humane Society Legislative Fund drafted ads against his re-election, but unfortunately he has just been voted back into office. Let’s hope the people of Iowa start to become more aware of what is going on under their own noses, and more of them join the fight for helping animals, and let their congressman know how they feel.
In Part 6 I will write more about the USDA and the Animal Welfare Act, and why it may not be working.