A rural Iowa breeder who euthanized unwanted dogs with unauthorized gastric injections and then left the animals alone to die has been fined $12,600 by the federal government.
Henry R. Sommers, who runs the Happy Puppy dog breeding operation on 141st Avenue in the Appanoose County town of Cincinnati, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for numerous violations over the past six years.
During a visit on August 16, 2022, a USDA inspector cited Sommers for eight non-critical violations related to the attending veterinarian and inadequate veterinary care; animal housing facilities; primary camps for animals; a lack of cleanliness, disinfection, housekeeping and pest control; and the veterinary care provided for dogs.
At the time, inspectors noted a male Yorkshire terrier with numerous clumps of faeces attached to his fur, and another Yorkshire terrier treated with penicillin that had expired 17 months earlier. The inspector also noted that an enclosure housing two dogs had “a large amount of dried faeces stuck to the upper part of the side panel, and a mold-like substance covering the faeces.”
The inspector also found four containers, all unmarked, for medication given to the dogs. One container, containing a liquid heartworm medication, was contaminated, as evidenced by a dead housefly floating in the container. The inspector also noted that dogs were not seen by a vet at least once every 12 months as required.
Sommers 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.
Mindi Callison, founder of Iowa-based animal welfare organization Bailing Out Benji, said while she’s glad to see the USDA taking enforcement action, more needs to be done.
She compared Sommers’ treatment to that of Daniel Gingerich, a former Wayne County breeder who was forced to surrender all the dogs in his care after he was repeatedly cited for major violations.
“We are very grateful that the USDA issued this penalty,” Callison said. “We just wish that the department would finally revoke the license of this extremely problematic facility and allow the animals to finally be saved as happened with the Daniel Gingerich puppy mill case. Sommers has had more than 80 documented violations in the past decade, many directly related to the health and housing of the dogs in his care. Penalties only go so far, at some point the USDA must take sensible action and permanently revoke the licenses of facilities that refuse to do better.”
The $12,600 fine was based on three years of findings from inspectors at Sommers’ breeding facility.
Among the violations cited by the USDA in its citation:
September 2019 – Sommers “failed to provide adequate veterinary care for animals” at his facility, the USDA alleged. An inspector observed a female Maltese chewing on her left flank, and noticed hairless, scabby areas on one leg, at the base of her tail and behind one shoulder. The dog’s condition was not noticed by Sommers and she did not receive treatment.
March 2020 – Sommers failed to provide kennels with floors that protected dogs’ feet and legs from injury. Inspectors watched as one puppy’s feet fell through openings in the mesh floor inside one enclosure.
June 2021 – Sommers failed to have a responsible adult available to accompany an inspector on a tour of the facility.
September 2021 – Sommers failed to maintain an adequate program of veterinary care. A female Yorkshire terrier had a thick build-up of dark brown, organic material on her teeth, as well as inflamed red gums. A gray female mixed breed dog had a thick build-up of a dark brown organic material on many of her teeth, as did a male Maltese and a male Yorkshire.
“When provided with water, the majority of the dogs drank immediately, including one adult Yorkshire terrier who drank continuously for one and a half minutes until it ran out of water. After the water bowl was refilled, the same dog drank for an additional thirty seconds.”
The USDA inspector also reported that Sommers’ method of euthanasia was not approved by an attending veterinarian, reporting that Sommers kills dogs by injecting a drug through the dogs’ abdominal wall and into their stomachs.
“He then puts the dog back in its enclosure and returns later to ensure it is dead,” the inspector reported. The instructions for the use of that type of drug indicate that it should be administered intravenously to ensure a quick and painless euthanasia. Sommers was also cited for failing to replace surfaces in his facilities that were worn or dirty and could not be readily cleaned and disinfected.
January 2022 – Sommers was again cited for not maintaining an adequate program of veterinary care. Inspectors noted two dogs with teeth loose and covered in brown organic material. One of the two dogs had “very few remaining teeth,” an inspector reported.
A third dog had dark brown tartar build-up on “almost the entire surface of upper left and right canines and front teeth, holes at the base of one upper right cheek tooth, a small amount of blood along the gum line (and) a creamy white coating the upper and lower cheek teeth on both sides.” A veterinarian recommended anesthetizing the dog for the removal of his teeth and prescribed antibiotics to treat gingivitis.
The inspector also reported finding a female Yorkshire terrier with an abnormal condition of the left eye that had not been noticed prior to the inspection. Ten days later, a veterinarian operated on the eye. Sommers was also cited for structurally unsound kennels that were not kept in good condition. The inspector noted that a hole cut in the wall of one wire enclosure was large enough for a dog to put its head or legs through the hole. In another case, there was a sharp edge, unattached strip of metal around the door frame.
The inspector also reported that two enclosures contained three dogs and rugs that had been shredded into long strands, and a 12-week-old puppy was entangled in the strands as it ran around the rugs.
Sommers was also cited for failing to disinfect his dog kennels at least once every two weeks to prevent an accumulation of dirt, debris and feces. The inspectors said the inside and outside of a box used by a puppy had “a build-up of brown material” covering almost the entire surface.
In addition, Sommers failed to keep copies of medical records for dogs and failed to make records available for inspectors to review.
March 2022 – The USDA inspector reported that many of the same issues from previous inspections still existed, including the “strong odor of animal waste,” dirty conditions and excessive feces. Sommers reportedly admitted to the inspector that some of the feces could have been there “for weeks.”
April 2022 – Sommers was again cited for not maintaining an adequate program of veterinary care. The inspector noted that one dog in need of dental treatment also had small open wounds that were bleeding along her left flank. Additionally, a female Yorkshire terrier had loose teeth, red gums and a “gray substance” on her molars. Another Yorkshire terrier had a “majority of his teeth missing from both sides of the mouth,” with one remaining tooth that was loose and bloody.
Sommers was again cited for failing to keep his kennels in good condition, with the inspector pointing to a kennel gate with a broken wire sticking out “and to the faces, chests and feet of two affected adult Yorkshire terriers.”
In addition, Sommers was cited for failing to keep his facilities free of any accumulation of litter, waste material and litter, with inspectors noting an excessive amount of litter, rusted pieces of metal, nails, screws, tools, used syringes, rodent droppings, hair, wood shavings and other debris. Sommers was also cited for failing to make water available to all the dogs, with an inspector noting that all the water bowls used by 16 different dogs, including a female nursing a litter of three puppies, dry wash
“When water was provided, the majority of the dogs drank immediately, including one adult Yorkshire terrier who drank continuously for one and a half minutes until it ran out of water,” the inspector reported. “After the water bowl was refilled, the same dog drank for an additional thirty seconds.”