Imagine watching a Golden Retriever die slowly of starvation and doing nothing about it. That’s what the ASPCA accuses the USDA of doing. That golden retriever’s name was Goldie and her tragic death at a commercial breeding farm or puppy mill is what’s behind efforts to put more power behind the Animal Welfare Act to keep this from happening again. 

USDA Animal Care inspectors are responsible for administering the Animal Welfare Act. They inspect commercial breeders in the pre-licensing stage and conduct unannounced compliance inspections. In the case of a USDA-licensed breeding facility in Iowa, or puppy mill, the ASPCA says the USDA failed to perform its duties. 

(*WARNING* Images in video may be disturbing)

“And just seeing there were dogs who were dying there dead when inspectors came to the site is just beyond the pale and I think very disturbing for the folks who see the footage,” said Ingrid Seggerman, Senior Director of Federal Affairs for the ASPCA.

She’s referring to the death of Golden Retriever #142. Goldie. She was so emaciated that her ribs were protruding. Under Goldie’s Act, the USDA would be required to make more frequent and meaningful inspections, confiscate dogs who are suffering and impose meaningful penalties for violators such as license revocation if necessary. The ASPCA wants animal lovers to reach out to their congressmen and women to co-sponsor and support the legislation. Representative Sanford Bishop from Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District chairs the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. It has some oversight into funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or AHPHIS which administers the Animal Welfare Act.

“Stricter enforcement is perhaps needed in order to avoid the kinds of situations which Goldie’s Act was designed to prevent. So I am supportive, I would hope that my colleagues on both sides of the isle will be supportive of the effort,” said Representative Sanford Bishop of Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District.

Breeders with more than 6 breeding females are required to seek a license. Goldie was among about 500 dogs at an Iowa puppy mill owned by Daniel Gingerich, who has pleaded guilty to charges and will do jail time for violations. 

We reached out the USDA for comment. They sent a statement which reads  “APHIS takes the welfare of animals very seriously.  Our investigative process for individuals and/or businesses found out of compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) may lead to an enforcement action. If deficiencies remain uncorrected at subsequent inspections, APHIS considers legal action. Repeat non-compliances and serious incidents may warrant enforcement actions such as letters of warning, monetary penalties, license suspensions and revocations. “

When pressed further for a response to the ASPCA’s criticism of how the agency handles its inspections, we received no answer.