Iowa dog breeders responsible for 36% of all violations in the U.S. last year

“The best breed is ‘rescued'” reads a wall decal at the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center, 3910 Napoleon Ln, Iowa City. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

Iowa’s dog breeders had the worst record of compliance with federal regulations in 2022, accounting for 36 percent of all violations cited nationally.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture cited dog and cat breeders and brokers for 795 violations in 2022, a total that excludes citations for “missed” inspections resulting from USDA officials not gaining access to the operations.

Of the 795 cited violations, Iowa breeders were responsible for 286 violations. In addition, six Iowa breeders received official warnings from the USDA in 2022.

According to federal data compiled by Bailing Out Benji, a national animal-welfare group based in Iowa, the states with the greatest number of violations in 2022 were:

• Iowa: 286 violations.

• Missouri: 109 violations.

• Wisconsin: 68 violations.

• Arkansas: 46 violations.

• Indiana: 43 violations.

Records of the USDA violations are collected and published quarterly by Bailing Out Benji’s founder, Mindi Callison, who said it’s “heartbreaking” that so many companion animals are suffering or showing signs of neglect at Iowa facilities.

“The USDA clearly does little to shut down problematic facilities that show no signs of wanting to improve,” she said. “It is time for the state of Iowa to end the USDA loophole and require federally licensed facilities to follow our strong state standards to ensure that animals are being treated humanely.”

Callison cited the recent case of Henry Sommers, an Appanoose County breeder who was fined $12,600 late last year and was more recently charged with seven counts of animal neglect.

“After a decade of repeat violations, it took complaints from a third-party organization and an investigation from the sheriff to finally shut that facility down,” Callison said. “His license was never revoked by the USDA.”

Bailing Out Benji recently completed a review of all USDA violations cited at breeders in the fourth quarter of 2022. During that period, nine Iowa breeders were cited for violations — the second highest number in the nation. Missouri topped the fourth-quarter list, with 17 of its breeders cited for violations between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.


This article was originally published by the Iowa Capital Dispatch on Feb. 6, 2023. Clark Kauffman is deputy editor of the Dispatch.