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Sheriff launches investigation of Iowa canine breeder

County legislation enforcement officers say they’re investigating a rural Iowa canine breeder who’s being sanctioned by federal regulators.

The US Division of Agriculture has fined Henry R. Sommers, who runs the Completely happy Pet dog-breeding operation on 141st Avenue within the Appanoose County city of Cincinnati, $12,600. The positive stems from quite a few citations for regulatory violations over the previous six years.

Mindi Callison of the animal-welfare group Bailing Out Benji contacted Appanoose County Sheriff Gary Anderson not too long ago about Sommers. Citing the proof already collected by federal inspectors, she requested Anderson to contemplate charging Sommers with violating Iowa’s animal-neglect legal guidelines.

Anderson stated Tuesday that his division visited Sommers’ operation final 12 months and can go to once more to find out whether or not the regulatory violations documented by inspectors rise to the extent of felony neglect.

“It is undoubtedly one thing we’re taking a look at,” he stated.

Appanoose County Sheriff Gary Anderson. (Picture courtesy of Appanoose County)

In 2022, he stated, the sheriff’s workplace was contacted by an animal-welfare group in New York concerning the points uncovered by USDA inspectors. That led to an on-site go to and a session with Iowa’s state veterinarian, he stated.

“The state veterinarian stated at that cut-off date that the violations didn’t rise to the extent of the felony violations within the Code of Iowa,” Anderson stated. “However since that point we’ve got acquired extra data and we’re assigning a deputy to go on the market and, clearly, do an investigation as as to whether there are actually any violations of the Iowa Code.”

Iowa’s animal-welfare legal guidelines embrace a prohibition on animal neglect, which is an easy misdemeanor for first-time offenders. In instances of damage, the crime is taken into account a severe misdemeanor, and in instances of significant damage or loss of life, the offense may be elevated to an aggravated misdemeanor.

The animal neglect legislation prohibits people from failing to offer primary requirements, resembling meals, drinkable water, veterinary care, sanitary residing circumstances which might be free from extreme animal waste, and ample safety from the weather.

Sommers was cited for failing to offer ample veterinary care to his canines in September 2019, September 2021, January 2022, April 2022 and August 2022.

The extra severe offense of animal abuse, through which an individual deliberately or recklessly acts to inflict on an animal an damage, severe damage, or loss of life may be charged as a severe or aggravated misdemeanor.

An outbuilding at the Happy Puppy dog ​​breeding operation run by Henry Sommers in Appanoose County, Iowa. (Photo courtesy of the Appanoose County Assessor’s Office)

In her letter to the sheriff, Callison wrote that her organization believes Sommers is violating state law and asked that any animals on the property be seized and handed over to a nonprofit animal shelter so they can be examined while the investigation is ongoing.

Callison noted that in 2022 alone, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship inspected Sommers’ operation numerous times and, on nine occasions, found that Happy Puppy was out of compliance with minimum standards. Sommers’ history of failing to comply with regulations, she said, goes back at least a decade.

Callison provided the sheriff’s office with detailed USDA and IDALS inspection reports for the past two years and highlighted the regulatory violations – such as a lack of veterinary care, a lack of drinkable water and unsanitary conditions – that appear to correspond to elements of Iowa’s animal- neglect law.

Sommers could not be reached for comment.

He has been among the Humane Society of the United States’ “Horrible Hundred” – an annual, national list of dog breeders with serious violations – on at least five occasions.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: info@iowacapitaldispatch.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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