ARL of Iowa’s CEO Tom Colvin, on right, greets some of the rescued dogs with their escorts. (ARL photo)

Organizations that helped rescue hundreds of dogs from a southern Iowa breeding operation cited for animal welfare abuses say it’s time for quicker and more aggressive action against what some call puppy mills. Tom Colvin, CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, said animals at facilities connected to dog breeder Daniel Gingerich clearly were in distress for months.

“We will continue to push for Iowa lawmakers and federal lawmakers to do right by these animals,” Colvin said during a news conference this morning at ARL of Iowa headquarters.

The evacuation of 514 dogs and puppies began October 13. The rescue was completed this week. “All dogs are now safe, are being brought to health and have been given a second chance at life,” Colvin said.

Seventy-five people with 18 transport vehicles rescued dogs from facilities near Seymour, Lamoni, Davis City, Promise City and Hazelton. USDA inspectors found 190 animal welfare violations at the facilities. Gingerich is now permanently banned from breeding and selling dogs.

Joe Stafford, director of animal services at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, organized the rescue. Stafford told reporters some of the rescued dogs need medical care. Others need psychological training because they’ve been confined in cages and had little contact with humans.

“This state needs to do more and the federal government needs to do more,” Stafford said. “These 514 animals will not have to live a life of servitude, but there are tens and tens of thousands of animals that unfortunately remain in conditions similar to this.”

Stafford said the investigation of Gingerich’s operations began in June after a report some of the dogs were living in horrific conditions. Robert Hensley, senior legal counsel for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the dogs in Gingerich’s facilities were not pets.

“Over the past several days we’ve worked side by side to rescue dogs who have been living in conditions that we can all agree are unacceptable: filthy, undersized cases; dogs with untreated medical illnesses…They weren’t walked or played with. They didn’t have a bed to sleep on or proper food,” he said. “…They were kept only to produce puppies to be sold in pet stores and online.”

Some of the rescued dogs have been places with agencies as far away as Tennessee and Milwaukee, but most are at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has given the agency a $100,000 donation to help cover the costs of on-going care for the rescued dogs.