Legitimate breeders on board with cleaning up black market mills
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY - Four area licensed breeders joined six law enforcement officers Thursday evening to talk about how to curb illegal breeding in Lee County.
Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber invited the group together to talk about the issues in the wake of the arrests of David and Gina Sams of rural Argyle who were keeping more than 300 animals in and around the couple's rural home.
They were charged with seven counts of animal neglect. Both Sams pleaded not guilty this week on all seven counts.
The animals were taken by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and are now being cared for in their custody.
Brian Mohrfeld, a USDA licensed breeder and president of Select Puppies in West Point, Iowa said he came to the meeting because he wants to help southeast Iowa out of the image of illegal breeding.
"That's why we're here. This is just another southeast Iowa deal and this isn't what we want to hear," he said.
Mohrfeld said the illegal breeders don't hurt his business directly, but it makes the whole group look bad when illegal activity is taking.
He said anyone can come and look at his facility any time, and state and federal inspectors do random checks on the licensed facilities. Weber said he's also done random inspections of Mohrfeld's property and said he was impressed with the operations.
"It's the people that have hundreds who aren't going through the state like you guys have to, that we're looking to take care of," Weber said.
"Then we will address the hording because that needs to be taken care of, too."
Weber said Lee County has a stigma of having terrible puppy mills.
"When I get these calls from people from outside the area I say, 'Well, when was the last time you drove by and looked at this place'."
He said those people haven't driven by any of the facilities but are calling on heresay.
PAW Animal Director Sandy Brown said driving by facilities does not always tell the story.
"Don't take offense, but driving by doesn't always tell the horror of what's inside of some places," she said.
Mohrfeld said all four of the breeders in the room would agree with that sentiment.
"If anyone thinks that any of us four are not for getting rid of the operations like wherever this happened. We're for getting rid of that. We don't want that and that makes us look bad," he said.
Animal control officers Tom Crew of Keokuk and Karl Judd of Fort Madison were in attendance and said any new ordinance or legal language should include some teeth that allows them to have more authority. Judd said a tag ordinance helps get the animals minimal care.
"Because right now, unless a dog is literally on its death bed, it doesn't constitute abuse in Iowa," Judd said.
"I've had dogs that were in terrible shape given back to the owner by the judge. By enforcing the dog tag ordinance in Fort Madison, it is a start because at least they have to see the vet once every couple of years to get a rabies tag. It also lets everyone know we're watching."
Lee County Supervisor Garry Seyb said state law only allows for three animals that are breedable in any home, however if the animals are spayed or neutered, homes can have as many as they want as long as they are taken care of.
Anyone outside of those guidelines are subject to state fines, enforceable by local law enforcement. But Weber said veterinarians are the ones that determine whether the animals are healthy and that can be subjective.
Weber said there were similar circumstances last year when cattle were loose roaming the county, but a meeting such as this resulted in Lee County Cattleman's Association and Farm Bureau reps getting involved and the issue was able to be cleaned up without added government involvement.
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