DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa ranks third in the nation for the number of problematic puppy breeders in the state, according to the Humane Society of the United States' Horrible Hundred list.
The Humane Society compiles the list every year, and as the name suggests, it includes 100 breeders documented by the Society as having sick or injured dogs, inhumane and unsafe conditions and a lack of protection from the heat or cold.
Eleven Iowa breeders made the list.
Local 5 attempted to reach out to several breeders listed on the report and eventually spoke with Anita Wikstrom of Ames, who's been on the list twice.
The report lists Wikstrom's facility because there have been multiple reports of it being dirty.
However, the state found Wikstrom's facility was back in compliance with animal welfare laws a few months ago.
"I was cleared in December. I made all the ... what she wanted done and she approved me," Wikstrom said. "So I'm not sure why it came back in the paper."
So, what can you do to make sure you're buying a healthy puppy?
There are a few questions you should ask before you get a new dog:
- What are the puppy's parents like?
- What are the conditions at the breeder's facility or the pet store?
- Is the breeder licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture? By the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship?
- Are there any complaints filed against the breeder?
"Once you know the name of the breeder, it's easy to look that up on the Iowa Department of Agriculture's website, find out what the inspections, if they're licensed in Iowa, say about them or look at the USDA inspection reports," said Emily Piper, a lobbyist for Stray Dog Policy. "But really I think the most important thing is to do a face-to-face visit, ask questions."
It's important to ask these questions to help you save money on vet bills down the road.
The Humane Society also has tips to find responsible breeders. More information can be found by clicking/tapping here.
LOOK: The 2021 Horrible Hundred list
How does breeder licensing work in Iowa?
If a commercial dog breeder meets the criteria to have a USDA license, they must also obtain an animal welfare permit from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
If a commercial dog breeder does not meet the criteria to have a USDA license, but has more than three intact, adult dogs that they are breeding and selling the puppies, they must have a commercial breeder license from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
Animal rights groups don't think there is enough oversight for breeding facilities
Commercial breeders must be licensed through the United States Department of Agriculture and by the state. State inspectors make unannounced visits, which happen at least once a year.
The USDA said they conduct "routine inspections," which happen more frequently if a breeder has had past violations.
The Humane Society of the U.S. feels breeders are getting away with repeated violations because they aren't being fined and are able to renew their licenses.
What is Iowa doing to keep pets safe?
Iowa has taken steps to address problematic puppy breeders. Last year, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship created new rules for commercial breeders.
State inspectors can now penalize breeders if they don't:
- Protect their animals from extreme temperatures and weather
- Keep their pet housing clean
- Give their pets at least two chances a day to exercise
- Provide enough space for their animals
Inspectors can also limit the number of dogs and cats in a facility.
What is the U.S. doing to keep pets safe?
Congress introduced the Puppy Protection Act of 2021 last month. The legislation would mandate regular interaction between dogs and humans.
The bill also demands dogs have access to outdoor areas and establishes cage and space requirements, which means dogs must be able to stand on their hind legs without touching the top of their enclosure.
Congress has introduced similar bills in the past couple of years, but none of have been signed into law.
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