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One by one, more than 500 dogs with matted fur, sunken eyes and protruding ribs were pulled from overcrowded stalls filled dirt, horse manure and feces, a rescue group said this week after federal judge barred an Iowa man from breeding and selling dogs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture accused Daniel Gingerich of Seymour, Iowa, of violating the Animal Welfare Act at least 100 times in six months and of hiding sick dogs from inspectors, according to a Department of Justice complaint.
The Justice Department said Gingerich failed to provide 514 dogs with "adequate veterinary care, nutritious food in a sufficient quantity, potable water and housing that is both safe and sanitary," according to a September DOJ statement.
On Tuesday, a federal judge permanently barred Gingerich from breeding and selling dogs and ordered him to hand over the dogs to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa for care, according to court documents. Gingerich has been a USDA licensed dog breeder since October 2019.
Gingerich's lawyer, Michael Byrne, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Wayne County sheriff's office is investigating "all the reports and civil citations in the next few weeks to come so that we can build a prosecutable case," Sheriff Keith Davis told USA TODAY on Thursday. He said criminal charges have not yet been filed.
"We want to prevent him from being able to do this again," Davis said.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has helped with rescue efforts, called the conditions "horrific" and said many dogs were untreated for painful injuries and illnesses, and many had matted fur and were in cages that were too small.
Last month, the ASPCA, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and other agencies began sending the dogs to shelters. As of Tuesday, more than 200 dogs had been rescued. The dogs that remain on Gingerich's property are receiving daily care, the ASPCA said.
The largest part of the "massive operation" began this week, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa said on Facebook, when rescue teams removed "dog after dog after dog from overcrowded kennels ... carrying them each to clean crates so they could start the next chapter of their lives.".
In July, inspectors found "a number of dogs hidden in filthy horse stalls covered in a thick layer of dirt, horse manure and dog feces," the DOJ complaint said. Two dead dogs had been found and one died during the inspection.
In September, inspectors discovered a "severely emaciated" golden retriever and dogs with painful, untreated eye conditions, poor dental health, overgrown toenails and swollen legs.
Dogs were also fed moldy, contaminated food, not given potable water, and not vaccinated against highly contagious viruses including distemper and parvovirus, leading to multiple outbreaks of the diseases, the DOJ said.
“Our hearts broke when we learned of the situation so many dogs are living through.” said Geoff Hall, president of Wayside Waifs, a Missouri-based animal protection organization helping rescue the dogs.
Several of the dogs at the temporary shelter are pregnant, and some puppies have already been born.
The ARL is accepting donations to help in the rescue and care efforts on its website.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USDA bans Iowa breeder Daniel Gingerich; 500 dogs rescued amid neglect