WASHINGTON, DC – On March 24, U.S. Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and Zach Nunn (R-IA) introduced Goldie’s Act (H.R. 1788), a federal bill that will help ensure the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) protects dogs in federally licensed, commercial dog breeding facilities, also known as puppy mills.
Named after a Golden Retriever who suffered extreme neglect and died at a USDA-licensed puppy mill in Iowa where she was known only as No. 142, Goldie’s Act will require the USDA to conduct more frequent and meaningful inspections, provide lifesaving intervention for suffering animals, issue penalties for violations, and communicate with local law enforcement to address cruelty and neglect.
“Though the Animal Welfare Act is intended to protect animals, there are too many loopholes and gaps in enforcement that allow licensees to rack up violations while animal abuse and neglect continues unaddressed,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Strategic Legislative Affairs Manager Alicia Prygoski. “Goldie’s Act will close loopholes and hold USDA licensees accountable so that other animals do not have to suffer the same tragic fate that Goldie did.”
“Time and again, USDA has allowed bad actors in the animal breeding industry to avoid accountability for explicit violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Enough is enough,” said Congressman Quigley. “The USDA must prioritize the health and safety of animals by ensuring that federally licensed facilities comply with the law. I am proud to cosponsor Goldie’s Act once again to strengthen the USDA’s enforcement authority and bring an end to rampant animal welfare violations.”
Photo of #142 (Goldie) from the follow-up USDA inspection
The Iowa puppy mill where Goldie died was operated by Daniel Gingerich, a USDA-licensed breeder who racked up nearly 200 violations at multiple properties across Iowa. Despite observing these violations of the law – including dogs who were sick and dying from injuries and disease, dogs housed in cages that were too small to turn around, and dogs standing in waste – the USDA continued to permit Gingerich to breed and sell dogs. The agency never confiscated any dogs who were suffering and never collected any penalties against Gingerich. After the USDA failed to act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) stepped in, with support from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and the ASPCA, who rescued more than 500 dogs from horrific conditions. Rather than discipline those who failed to act, the USDA’s Animal Care Division actually gave cash awards to 17 staff members, rewarding their poor performance on the Gingerich case.
This case is part of the USDA’s ongoing pattern of failing to enforce the AWA and protect the animals in its care, even when the conditions are extremely poor and animals are dying. Months after the Gingerich case, more than 4,000 beagles were rescued from another USDA-licensed business, Envigo, where the USDA documented horrific cruelty during “routine inspections” over several months, including dead dogs, starving dogs, dogs in dangerous conditions, and dogs in need of veterinary care. Yet, days after the DOJ negotiated surrender of the beagles, the USDA renewed the company’s license for another year, and a shocking new report from Reuters revealed that senior USDA leaders went to great lengths to cover up both Envigo’s treatment of the dogs and the agency’s own refusal to protect the animals.
The USDA is responsible for ensuring that their licensees follow the law, and when they choose to allow violations to go unreported and unpunished, the agency contributes to animal suffering. Last year, the USDA recorded over 800 violations for licensed dog dealers alone, but the USDA failed to take any meaningful action against these problematic dog dealers. Goldie’s Act would help fix USDA policies that have failed animals and allowed suffering for far too long.
Join the Animal Legal Defense Fund's email list to stay up to date on lawsuits, legislation, and regulations affecting animals.