Iowa is on “The Horrible Hundred” List and the Quad City Area Advocacy Team is trying to change that.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, 11 of the U.S.’s 100 “problem puppy mills” are in Iowa – ranking the state 4th behind Missouri (23), Kansas (16), and Nebraska (14). Iowa has been in the Top 5 for the last 3 years.
The Iowa Friends of Companion Animals (IFCA) is a non-profit, volunteer-led organization created to “advance the humane and responsible treatment of companion animals through collaboration and public awareness,” according to a IFCA Press Release. IFCA helped pass Iowa’s 1st “puppy mill bill” during the 2010 Iowa Legislative Session.
Now, IFCA wants to pass another piece of legislation and is trying to do so by bringing more awareness and more advocates to the issue. The Quad City Area Advocacy Team, led by Tracey Kuehl, is looking for more volunteers to help with its discussions and activities.
“This is an issue that impacts all Iowans for a number of reasons,” Kuehl said. “A lot of people get a puppy that they’re absolutely in love with and find out that the dog has some health issues, some genetic issues, some behavioral issues, and often times those animals come out of a mill – so it’s a consumer protection issue. Some of these large commercial breeders that are licensed by U.S.D.A. don’t pay state sales tax – so it’s a financial issue.”
Kuehl added that the way these animals are treated, neglected, abused – and sometimes killed – is appalling.
“They live in small, cramped cages,” she described. “Sometimes, multiple dogs in cramped cages. Dog live on cages that have wire floors.”
“There are kennels stacked on top of kennels stacked on top of kennels in things like the back of semi-trailer trucks that are used as barns,” Kuehl added. “There are dogs that don’t have appropriate vet care. They have eye issues, wounds, are mangy. These animals don’t have any contact with humans.”
Kuehl said the overall goal of their group is to make people aware of what’s going on in some areas of Iowa.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in that really cute puppy that you’re going to buy, but as we like to remind people – really cute puppies can come from really horrific conditions – dogs that are sick or injured or diseased – and they still produce really cute puppies… so ask questions.”
Besides “The Horrible Hundred” List, Iowa also ranks 2nd in the U.S. for the number of USDA-licensed commercial dog breeders – with around 220 facilities. Kuehl said in 2014, 47% of them had some kind of violation with the Federal Animal Welfare Act.
“I cannot imagine why a society like ours would allow these animals to live in these kinds of conditions when we consider them companion animals,” said Kuehl. “Iowa can do better.”
Kuehl, the QCA Advocacy Team, and IFCA are working to “do better” by presenting new legislation to the Iowa General Assembly. It includes three aspects. The first would put small/hobby breeders and commercial breeders in different categories. The second would require state inspection of commercial breeders.
“State inspectors look at small facilities, but they don’t look at the big ones and we believe in order to be effective in addressing animal neglect and cruelty and invoking those laws that are already established for that, we need to have state inspectors in the large facilities as well,” said Kuehl.
The third aspect would establish a license fee for commercial breeders, based on how many dogs they own. Money from that fee would pay for two additional state inspectors as well as fund that municipalities could use to care for animals if a facility were to shut down.
“We fully support those breeders who do a good job, who promote their breed, who want to make the breed better, who breed for correct genetics and correct health and things like that,” explained Kuehl. “It’s the folks that are skirting what they really need to be doing as responsible dog breeders and therefore putting animals out to the unaware public and having issues there.”
The QCA Advocacy Team of IFCA holds meetings the first Wednesday of the month at the Bettendorf Public Library, starting at 6:30pm.