A federal judge told a contrite Daniel Gingerich on Friday that she would take “all necessary and legal steps” to end the type of neglect the Wayne County dog breeder is accused of committing.
Gingerich appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose on Friday for a hearing on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s injunction request against Gingerich over dozens of alleged violations of federal animal welfare law.
Gingerich showed up for the hearing an hour late and without a lawyer, having traveled to Iowa from Ohio in a pickup truck that towed a large trailer of the type often used to transport animals.
He admitted in court that some of the dogs in his care died or suffered, and he expressed his regret.
“Okay so I owe these dogs a lot of money,” he told the court. “I bite more than I can chew… It’s no one’s fault but mine.”
When Rose asked Gingerich if he would agree to immediately handing over all of his animals deemed to be in urgent need of medical attention, he replied “100%” and then changed that answer to “110%”.
He said he would turn over all his animals, even the ones that aren’t sick, if he didn’t owe them so much money.
“I owe $ 600,000 on these dogs,” he told the court. “I’d love to wash my hands of the whole thing.”
Some of the money he owes was borrowed from a bank, he said, and some was borrowed from another dog breeder. “I mean, I know there were some sick puppies that weren’t treated because I had too many dogs,” he said.
“This can’t go on any longer,” Rose told Gingerich. “We have animals which by all descriptions are in acute distress or are on the verge of death or on the verge of death.”
Rose told Gingerich she found it “very distressing” that he was cited for more than 100 violations of federal animal welfare law. “These are live animals that you have been given care for,” she said, adding that regardless of his financial situation, he had to comply with court orders and federal regulations.
“We didn’t want any more dead dogs. “
During the hearing, government lawyers told Rose that during an inspection at one of Gingerich’s 10 facilities, he initially refused to give inspectors access to a barn where he had hidden from many dogs. Then he called someone else to “transfer ownership” of the dogs to that person over the phone, to reclaim ownership of them after the inspectors left – an apparent effort to reduce his liability for violations discovered inside the house. barn.
Justice Rose asked government lawyers if the USDA attempted to seize some of the animals that appeared to require immediate medical attention.
Lawyers said the process was started at some point with the government giving Gingerich the required notice that specific animals were about to be seized. This only resulted in Gingerich euthanizing the dogs, said Mary Hollingsworth, a lawyer with the US Department of Justice.
“So we stopped trying to go down that route because we didn’t want more dead dogs,” Hollingsworth told the court.
Rose granted the government’s injunction request, which essentially extends a temporary restraining order she issued on September 28. She also warned Gingerich that he could face serious consequences by not complying with the court order to provide authorities with a complete list of all his animals and their locations.
Rose told Hollingsworth and Gingerich she was open to a “creative” resolution of the matter – even if that means “bailing out Mr. Gingerich legally” so that the animals still in her care can be transferred to others who will take care of them. She told government lawyers that she would like to be briefed on the status of the case within two weeks.
Mindi Callison of animal rights group Bailing Out Benji attended Friday’s hearing.
“It appears Daniel Gingerich is not taking this matter as seriously as he should,” she said after the hearing. “Without getting legal representation, I fear it will be left lightly and these animals will be transferred to other breeding facilities instead of being rescued.”
Callison said she was grateful to the judge “for taking this matter seriously and for trying to take steps to ensure that the dogs receive the veterinary care they need.”
The hearing took place a day after Wayne County Sheriff Keith Davis said he was considering bringing criminal charges against Gingerich for animal neglect. Davis has said he wants to make sure the criminal charges filed do not conflict with the USDA’s pursuit of its civil case against Gingerich.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship recently fined Gingerich $ 20,000 and suspended his Iowa license for 60 days, although this suspension has not yet taken. effect.
Rose’s Sept. 28 order gave Gingerich and all those who work for him seven days to provide the US Department of Justice with a “list of all the places they have dogs for breeding or breeding. the sale “, as well as a complete inventory of all its animals, indicating the breed, sex, age and unique identification number of each animal. Gingerich has yet to comply with this order.
State and federal government records indicate that Gingerich operates as Maple Hill Puppies and operates kennels or breeding facilities in 10 different locations across Iowa. While it is still unclear how many dogs Gingerich owns, records suggest that at one point he had at least 1,000 dogs and puppies on hand.
Inspectors counted 675 dogs at Gingerich’s two Seymour properties during site visits last summer. Dead dogs were found at both sites – some in the grass, outdoors and others in kennels kept indoors.
After these visits, the USDA gave Gingerich special permission to begin selling his dogs. According to state records, 53 dogs were donated to another breeder and approximately 250 dogs were transferred to a facility in Missouri for auction.