Iowa Puppy Mills by the Numbers


As an Iowan, I have always been proud to live in this state. The scenery is beautiful, and the people are amazing. I have always believed that there is no better place than here….

Since starting Bailing Out Benji in 2011, my eyes have been opened to the world of misery and torture in our own back yard. I had no idea that is Iowa is the SECOND WORST state in America when it comes to puppy mills, with over 250 puppy mills (and over 17,000 adult dogs trapped)! Since Bailing Out Benji was founded, the number of puppy mills in Iowa has dropped from over 400 to just over 250- which is fantastic news! But we have a long way to go… And we can’t do it without YOUR help! 

In this article, I have included a few “fast facts” about Iowa puppy mills, so you can share and help us educate! We firmly believe that through education we can put an end to this industry! 

Counties with the most puppy mills in Iowa 

Sioux County (with 28!)

Lee County (With 21!)

Davis County (with 14!)

 Lyon County (With 7!)

Worth County (With 7! )

Remember, these are just a few of  the worst counties when it comes to puppy mills… It does not mean that they are the only counties with puppy mills and it doesn’t mean these are the puppy mills with the most number of dogs. If you are curious about puppy mills in your area, please contact us


2015 Breeders with DIRECT USDA Violations.

 In 2015 alone, there were 24 USDA inspections done that included direct violations of the Animal Welfare Act. A direct violation is one that puts an animal in immediate distress (illness, open wounds, inadequate cage size, etc) 

Of those 24 inspections: 

-5 USDA licensed breeders had more than one inspection last year with direct violations on each inspection

-1 USDA licensed breeder had three inspections done and had a direct violation on each

-25 direct violations were handed out in total. 

Iowa USDA Licensed Breeders Make 2015 HSUS Horrible Hundred List

Each year, the Humane Society of the United States puts out their list of the worst puppy mill owners in the country, and each year Iowa makes the list! Sadly, in 2015 Iowa made quite the impact, with 11 puppy mills making the cut. 

Puppy mills in the following counties made the list: Calhoun, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Lee, Marion, Mitchell, Plymouth,Sioux, Van Buren. 

These puppy mills alone have over 903 adult dogs trapped in their facilities and they are living in some of the worst conditions in the entire country. The HSUS does a “Horrible Hundred” list each year, and Iowa is always represented. Here are the links to the 2014 and 2013. 


Iowa USDA Licensed Breeders with the Most Adult Dogs 

The top five breeders in Iowa have overwhelming amounts of dogs. Totaling over 2,000 adult breeding dogs, these facilities have numerous violations and many have made the HSUS horrible hundred list in previous years. 

Larry Albrecht- Coldwater Kennels, Butler County. Latest USDA Count- 261 adult dogs, 220 puppies. 

J. Maasen- Sioux County. Latest USDA Count- 282 adult dogs, 158 puppies. THIS BREEDER MADE THE 2015 HORRIBLE HUNDRED PUPPY MILL LIST. 

Marvin and Joanna Newswanger- Maple Tree Kennels, Chickasaw County. Latest USDA count- 331 adult dogs 

Ed VanDoorn- Squaw Creek Kennels, Mahaska CountyLatest USDA Count- 387 adult dogs, 152 puppies. 

Steve Kruse- Stonehenge Kennels, Lee County. Latest USDA count- 823 adult dogs, 584 puppiesTHIS BREEDER HAD FIVE INDIRECT VIOLATIONS ON THEIR LATEST INSPECTION. 


And Lastly, Iowa has over 10 pet stores that buy from puppy mills, but even more Iowa puppy mills shipping puppies to stores out of the state. For more information on them, please click here

Bailing Out Benji is the only organization in Iowa that actively protests these pet stores and we would LOVE your help! Ames, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are three cities that we host protests in each weekend. If you know of a pet store in your area that sells puppies, please contact us! We would love to help you educate the citizens in your town! Remember, Pet store puppies ARE puppy mill puppies: don’t buy the lies! 

The dogs in the puppy mills need YOUR help today. Help us educate your family, friends and coworkers by sharing this article! With each new person learning about puppy mills, we are one step closer to putting an end to the industry altogether! 

For more ways to help, please contact us! 

— Mindi

** All Info is Current as of October 2015 and will be updated regularly**

And don’t forget to like us on facebook !!

Don’t Buy The Lies- New Design Kennels

Hello, All! As you know, at Bailing Out Benji we are dedicated to helping puppy mill dogs in various ways…. One of which is by outing puppy mills and the pet stores they sell to. If you have been following our educational efforts at all, you will have seen that we have been protesting one pet store, Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, in Ames, Iowa for almost 4 years now. Dyvig’s has admitted to buying puppies from two puppy mills here in Iowa. While we have a presence in front of the store every Saturday and Sunday (with surprise weekday protests sprinkled in), we have stepped up our game for Puppy Mill Awareness Month. Our #ThirtyDaysThirtyProtests campaign is back for the month of September and we have been able to reach a lot of new people with our message. Most days, it is hard to see the direct fruits of our efforts… But other days, we are given the best “thanks”. Today is that day.

z8Bailing Out Benji receives dozens of emails and private messages every day, not to mention all of the comments of support and shares. Tonight, however, we received a very special message. A woman, who unknowingly supported a puppy mill, by purchasing from New Design Kennels. After the first puppy she purchased from NDK died after only 7 months from an intestinal disease, her boyfriend purchased a second one. For $100 off the normal price, for their inconvenience of losing the first one. Sadly, the second dog wasn’t much healthier. He had to undergo a very expensive surgery for IVDD, a genetic disorder in which trauma to the spinal cord results from hardening of the spinal disks. Because of this woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, we were given a link to the blog written by the owner of New Design Kennels, Nancy Carlson, and we are SO excited to be sharing her words with you tonight.

Her full blog can be read here, but we thought a point by point breakdown of her arguments was a little more fitting because, as you all know, the facts don’t lie. So here we go! “Sex, Lies, and New Design Kennel” (Screenshots have been taken directly from her blog. 


Well, let’s be real. Nancy Carlson and I have been in the room together at least three times. The first time she was auctioning off her dogs. Dogs that were missing eyes, limbs and were visibly ill. She transported them to the auction in a trailer meant for a car. It was truly one of the most horrifying experiences I have ever had. The second time, I had the pleasure of defending our puppy mill awareness PSA against her, Rob Hurd and the owner of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, Dale Dyvig. She embarrassed herself in front of a room full of businessmen by claiming that I have invisible drones that fly over her property and that I threaten to rape her in the same cages that she rapes her dogs in (her words…. because… yuck.) And the final time, Nancy was- again- at a puppy mill auction. This time, buying more dogs to breed.

Also, Bailing Out Benji started long before I ever had the pleasure of coming in contact with Nancy Carlson.


In the many years of operating the kennel, I am the ONLY person who has ever complained. Really? Can anyone name a business that has 100% customer satisfaction anywhere? Then I will consider myself very lucky that the very first person that ever bought a sick puppy from New Design Kennels (bought two) and contacted me! Sadly, this just isn’t the case, and it isn’t even believable. And I am just going to put this here Not only does Nancy Carlson operate New Design Kennels, but she runs a separate breeding website called “Illusion Japanese Chin” and even reputable breeders/ show breeders /breed enthusiasts know that something very shady is going on there. What kind of reputable breeder needs more than one name?! 


Hmmm…. Not only have I personally helped rescue dogs in horrid conditions that came straight out of puppy mills, but we have ALL seen those photos. Dogs that are completely matted, dogs that are too old, dogs with open wounds… These conditions have all been backed up by USDA inspections in which the inspectors cite these violations. Those dogs are all still breeding. Being “in the mood” doesn’t matter to animals when they are in heat. You can see some of those reports here, thanks to the 2015 Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill List


As Nancy said in her own blog earlier, ” a set of predator-drone flyover photos of our property several years ago”. The photos that Bailing Out Benji has of New Design Kennels ARE of their property, she admitted it in her own blog. Never once did we say that the cages were too small, sadly, they are more spacious than some puppy mills, but the dogs are forced to live on wire their entire lives. I will let you see those photos for yourself… And you can decide. 




So…. Again…. Do YOU think that New Design Kennels is a puppy mill? 



There ya have it, everyone! And that’s the truth! 

Join us on Facebook and stay updated on all of the work we are doing in Iowa, and beyond! 

Iowa’s First Puppy Mill Awareness Billboard

What weighs 12 tons, is seen by tens of thousands of people a day, and is carrying Iowa’s first Puppy Mill billboard? 

ames 10-17-13 046

That’s right! The Cyride! All summer long the volunteers at Bailing Out Benji have been raising money to purchase Iowa’s first Puppy Mill Awareness Billboard and PSA!

This sign will be seen by the 33,000 students enrolled at Iowa State University, as well as the more than 30,000 Ames, Iowa residents. With 35% of the ISU students coming from other states, not to mention all of the international students who will be reading this message– this has the ability to be seen around the world. We are hoping that this ad will catch some wandering eyes and will educate them about where NOT to get their puppies. 

Our ad has hit the city of Ames today, October 18, 2013 and will run for an entire year on two different buses. A close up of the ad shows our message (as you can see below). As you know, one of our passions at Bailing Out Benji is to educate the consumer about the pet store, puppy mill connection. We believe that if there is no longer a demand for puppies, then the supply will dwindle down. This ad is up and running just in time for the busiest period of the year for puppy mill and store owners…. The holidays. It is no secret that more puppies are purchased as gifts between November and the end of December. Can you help us end that? Spread the word that pet store puppies are puppy mill puppies. 


Wondering who that cute yorkie is in the PSA? Her name is Scarlett Sunshine and she survived 5 years in a puppy mill. She and her pack have dedicated their lives to educating about puppy mills and we couldn’t think of a better way to honor her memory. I want to thank everyone that helped with this!

Please, head over to our facebook page and let us know your thoughts!! Would you like to see one of these ads in your neck of the woods? 

What’s in YOUR Backyard?

Want to see a puppy mill for your own eyes? 


Everyone has differing opinions of what a “puppy mill” is.

Some breeders say that it is a derogatory term, much like a racial slur. Other breeders say that the “AR”s (or Animal Rights Activists, as they refer to us) are using it as a blanket term to cover anyone that breeds and that we want to end all breeding altogether (which is false, by the way)

My own PERSONAL definition of a puppy mill is ANY breeder of any size that puts the profit of the sale over the welfare of the dogs left behind. I don’t care if you have two dogs or two hundred. If you are allowing the parent dogs to go without proper food, water, shelter, VET CARE, or socialization then YOU are a puppy mill, by my standards.

Sadly, Iowa is full of these. Even worse, the reputable breeders won’t step forward and speak out against these terrible facilities. 

According to the USDA website, Iowa has over 239 USDA Commercial dog breeding facilities…. How many of them can honestly say that they care for their dogs? As you have read, I have been to an auction where sick and injured dogs were still being bred and then sold to worse kennels to continue this terrible lifestyle. Well… It has got to stop.

If you are curious about puppy mills in your area, here is the link to the USDA website. From here, you can search for name, city, county, type of animal… You name it, and it is all public information.

I dare you to drive by one of these places in your area. Don’t stop… Don’t harass…  Just drive by. See what I see… Smell what I smell… Hear what I hear.

Put a face on the evil in your area. Draw attention to these places. Stop being complacent. 

Do you know anyone in Polk County (Iowa)? 

Do you know anyone that lives in Des Moines? 

Melving Jennings lives at 2650 NE 108th Street, Mitchellville, Iowa- A 20 minute drive from our state’s capital. Yet, it remains hidden among Iowa’s agriculture. NOT ANY MORE. Help me put Jenning’s on the map. 

Recent USDA inspection report dog counts:
11/7/11 – 67 adults/39 puppies
1/28/11 – 105 adults/41 puppies
2/10/10 – 115 adults/71 puppies

However, Denny Wiese Iowa Puppies (a breeder just down the road, in Altoona) recently closed her doors and it is rumored that the dogs were recycled into this facility. Her latest USDA report showed  161 adults/85 puppies (on 11/7/11). 

Jennings has been cited in the past for having “an excessive accumulation of feces on the wire flooring” and it affected approximately 75 dogs. 

Do you think that he can take care of 100 extra dogs? 

Did you know, you can drive right by this place and see dogs from the road? You can hear their barking from your car. 


 Here is the link again to the USDA website. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you about the breeders in your area. 

Go out and find them yourself. 

And don’t forget to  “like” us on facebook, by clicking here 


“Adopt, Don’t Shop for your next pet” 

**Note: I am not condoning any violence or action against the breeders found on the USDA website. It is meant to be an educational tool to aid in informing others about the atrocities that are happening in your own backyard. Please share the information and make complaints to the proper authorities in your area (sheriff, humane society, and department of agriculture… yes, complain to all of them)

My Auction Adventures

I did something that I have been trying to mentally prepare myself for since I started Bailing Out Benji… A small group of friends and I drove almost two hours to attend a puppy mill auction in Vail, Iowa. Thankfully, K-D Kennels owned by Dean and Karen Grell is officially OUT OF BUSINESS. After years of bad USDA reports, they are leaving the business. Sadly for all of their 240 dogs (and a few puppies), they were being auctioned off like property instead of going to rescues. Please read my story, share it, and reach out if you have any questions! 


This was a very intimidating experience, for sure. Walking on to this property that I had read so many awful things about, not knowing if I will be kicked out immediately, or if I will be hauled away because I couldn’t keep my comments to myself. The thoughts were rolling around in my head, and I knew I had to try to keep them from crossing on to my face. I was horrified at the place. It was like hell on earth. There were several buildings that were not much more than sheds with runs on the sides of them. Most of her “kennels” were in semi trailers that had been turned into a giant dog house with out-door access. By that, I mean that she has wire cages that are lifted off of the ground, as you can see in the photo. Notice the poor dogs standing on the wire bottom flooring. The auctioneer, Bob Hughes from South West Auction Service,  even commented on the grounds. His phrasing was, “Folks, this kennel here is average. I am not gonna say its great. On a scale of one to ten, it is a five. But you won’t find a lick of dirt or a smell. And you aren’t buying the kennel, you are buying the dog. And these dogs are a ten.” As you read on, you will find that these dogs that are a “ten” have many external issues (not to mention the internal ones).

Photos courtesy of Iowa Animal Welfare Alliance

As I walked passed all of the helpless dogs and into the big steel barn, I saw many people who I recognized by  name and face… We had Mr. Bob Hughes, the auctioneer who claims to auction off 22,000 dogs per year, Mr. Rob Hurd who is a past president  of the Iowa Pet Breeders Association and he also works with the America’s Pet Registry (which is notoriously used by backyard breeders and puppy mill owners), Larry Albrecht from Cold Water Kennels, Shirley Hershey from TLC Kennels in Pennsylvaniaa representative from MWI Veterinary Supply, and a person from America’s Premier Pets in Missouri. There were around 700 people in attendance- needless to say, we were in a room full of evil and we had to keep our mouths shut.

Photo from a mill in Tennessee… Dogs at the auction were standing on wire flooring just like this.

As we walked in to this run-down steel barn, we were all given an 18 page packet with a list of the dogs that would be going on sale. This included their birth dates (if known), color of dog, “name” of dog, the last known pups, and whether or not the dog could possibly be pregnant. Seeing all of the dogs that needed saved was very overwhelming, but we looked at the book and picked the dogs that we thought needed the most help. When the auction officially started, the items being sold were the water bowls, some cage doors, and other little things like that. I was just observing the crowd until I saw them place a giant Styrofoam cooler on the table. Bob and his helper, Christine Strobietto, began cutting away the tape to reveal a huge pile of unopened vaccines. Bob said that there were 100 unopened boxes of vaccines that expired in September of 2011 and that “they would be good for another two to three years”. As the bidding started, he repeatedly prompted the crowd, saying that they could “vaccinate their entire kennel at 1/4 the price.” The whole scene was sickening. Not only have the Grell’s been in trouble with the USDA for using expired medications, but I was in an entire room of breeders that were cut-throat bidding just to get their hands on these vaccines that had been outdated. As disgusted as I was, this was only the beginning of my nightmare.

Once the dogs were thrown on that auction table, we knew that the stakes were pretty high. First the Shih-tzus were up and they were going for upwards of $1000. Quicker than anything, we were going through these dogs. The auctioneer decided to do more of a “Dutch” style auction, where there were five of one type and the highest bidder can take his pick, take a few, or take the lot. Then the second highest bidder was offered a chance, after that the bidding would start all over again. I think this was done to try to deter the rescues from being able to get even a handful of animals. While the bidding was going on, I did notice four guys in the back of the room who were all dressed pretty similarly. They were bidding on dogs, but never took a dog home. I feel like they were there to drive the prices up, if they noticed rescue “type” people bidding. Sadly, the game was on and we were the underdogs… 

Example of dog auction in Ohio

As the poor animals came and went, you could see the terror on their faces. They were visibly shaken and terrified. At one point in time, Bob Hughes stopped the auction to show the volunteers how to properly show these dogs. This involved grabbing them by the base of the tail and yanking them upward, while holding their chin up. This was a very uncomfortable experience for the dogs. I have seen it done at dog shows, and this was nothing like that…. At one point in time, I had to leave the room because there was an Italian Greyhound screaming at the top of its lungs. It had deformed toes (several were chewed off) and just being placed on the table was excruciating. I had never heard a dog make those sounds before. It took everything I had to stop myself from running up to that table and grabbing that dog. I know that Rob Hurd would have loved that though. Further proof that all of us animal lovers are “AR”s and extremists. Even Rob got onto the floor and helped with the auctioning. He would hold up the six-week old puppies and show them off to the crowd, as Bob stated that. “they have their entire breeding lives ahead of them.” At one point in the auction, I watched Rob sarcastically salute to a dog as it was whisked away to its new home. This made me absolutely sick. Moms with puppies were going for $2500. 

Example of dogs standing on wire cages in Missouri Mill

There were 348 dogs up for auction from the Grell’s and another breeder, Nancy Carlson from New Designs kennel and Illusion Japanese ChinThis number doesn’t include puppies that they “threw in” with the price of the mom. Most of these dogs were in pretty bad shape. You could tell that they had recently groomed the dogs a little, most were shaved down- but they all still smelled pretty badly. That being said, the auctioneer was very honest and up front with what was wrong with the dogs, but he threw in the disclaimer that everything will be sold as is.

Let’s see, there were dogs with:

 Missing teeth or NO teeth (this is applicable to most of the dogs),  broken jaws, soft jaws, three legs, many dogs were missing toes (one only had a single toe on each back foot), a Shiba had a badly broken back leg that hadn’t been fixed (so it was curled up and deformed under its body), many of the males one had a single testicle, there were a dozen or so dogs that had open umbilical hernias on their stomachs (that were the size of a pen hole), other dogs had closed hernias, a few dogs had “tick sized” knots on their backs (according to the auctioneer), missing eyes, spots on their eyes, cloudy eyes, under bites, and  over bites. Word to the wise, if the dogs have this many problems on the outside, they are a mess on the inside.  

Photo of generic puppy mill.
Many of these breeds were at
the auction.

None of this matters in the world of puppy mills, however. These were all products… property to be used, abused, and profited from. When referring to the age of the dogs, Bob and Christine would refer to them as an ” ’08 model” , like it was a car. I distinctly remember them auctioning off a Bichon saying, “She may be an ’03 model, but she’s got plenty of litters left in her”. The whole scene was sickening. These dogs (the sick and injured) were going for thousands of dollars. It was tough to watch and impossible to bid against. I overheard a couple talking about how these prices were the highest they had seen them in years. But why? Just a week ago at an auction in Missouri, they were giving away Shih-tzus for $1 but 6 days later they are worth $500 or more? 


Once the equipment sale was going on outside, the room cleared considerably. It was pretty easy to tell who the breeders were, and who the rescuers were. Not that it made any difference to the auctioneer. Money was money- and competition was his paycheck. The most expensive dog that day went for over $3000, less than 20  dogs went for under $100, a few were between $100 and $200, but most were $750 and up. A very sad day for the dogs. 

In the end, we were able to save a handful of lives, and I saw a few other rescues walking out with precious souls as well. This article isn’t dedicated to those that we saved… It is dedicated to those poor dogs that are being recycled into a worse life. I had to watch the breeders load their vehicles and it was sickening. Three to four dogs thrown into a travel cage- no food, no water, no blanket. who knows how long they would be in their tiny vans. 

Puppy mills are legal. Dogs auctions are legal. We need to educate or friends, family, and coworkers, as well as elect officials into office that will help us stop these atrocities. 

Now that I have been to this auction, I am forever changed. I saw so many evil people who use animals for profit and I have lost a lot of respect for humanity. Thankfully, there are a few amazing angels out there that are willing to rescue animals from these (and other) situations. If this story hit home for you, please remember to share it with anyone that you know.  Please, SHARE THIS ARTICLE,  spread the word and help us educate as many people as we can reach! 

Remember to always adopt, instead of shop for your next pet.

Thank you for reading this article… PLEASE “like” us on facebook by clicking hereIf you are interested in upcoming auctions, also visit our facebook page and contact me there! 

EDITORS NOTE: Since this first auction in 2012, I have been to several more auctions. Some better, some worse than the one above. My feelings on the subject have never changed and I have certainly learned more about attending. Now our organization works hard to raise funds for upcoming auctions in order to save as many lives as possible! And we work with other rescues to ensure that they have a safe place to go afterwards.


Since photos were not allowed on premises, I have added photos from around the country of puppy mills and puppy mill auctions.

An example of what cages look like on the inside of a “reefer” or semi-trailer.
Example of a Puppy Mill. This one is located in Ohio