Breeder: Tom Grove
Address: 15636 270th Ave
City, State, Zip: South English, IA 52335
USDA License: none
Iowa state license: none
Date and time of CAPS Investigation: 11/14/22, 1403; 11/15/22, 11/18/22 1130
Weather at time of investigation: 11/14/22: 37°F and cloudy; 11/15/22: 32°F and cloudy
Approximate number of dogs and puppies observed at time of investigation: Seven dogs and four puppies
Breeds: Shetland Sheepdogs
Tom Grove is an unlicensed puppy miller in rural southeast Iowa, who breeds Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties). Ultimately, CAPS was able to get all animals at the facility rescued and into permanent homes, and the effort involved dedicated work from two rescues, an activist, and local law enforcement.
The case began when CAPS received a complaint about Grove’s facility from a civilian investigator who lives out of state and heard Grove sells sick dogs. The investigator purchased two dogs named Leo and Sheldon from Grove to determine if that was the case. The dogs were purchased remotely and were transported with a puppy shipping service to a veterinarian and ultimately to Central Illinois Sheltie Rescue. The rescue told me the dogs were scared and had worms. However, it was unlikely the vet records would prompt prosecution on a neglect case. So, after the investigator contacted CAPS, I went to visit the kennel.
I visited the kennel three times in November of 2022. On November 14 and 15, I spoke to the kennel owner, Tom (Caucasian male, about 70 years old, 6’2”, 220 lbs., with short, balding grey hair, a moustache and beard, and glasses), and documented conditions on the property. On November 18, I bought two dogs from him. While CAPS does not normally buy dogs or puppies from breeders so as to not fund their operations, doing so allowed me to get evidence for the case and save an older dog’s life without providing much money to the breeder.
When I met with the breeder, Tom, he took me through his kennel and explained his breeding operation. He said that he has bred Shelties since 2006, that he used to sell puppies on puppyfind.com, and that now he uses hoobly.com. Tom said that customers typically buy puppies from him directly on his property and pay in cash. He added, though, that he will ship puppies and charges extra for it.
The kennel was located just south of the residence and consisted of several outdoor pens and one pen in a dilapidated barn. The barn had an open doorway on its south and western sides and gaps in broken wooden boards throughout its walls. It was filled with assorted junk, and in the middle of the barn was a puppy pen that was about 10’ wide and 20’ long. It had a dirt flooring with several days of feces scattered around it, and a wooden wall. A partially filled water dish contained brown water near a small animal skull. Four puppies, each about four months old, were in the pen. They ran around the pen, staying away from Tom and me. The puppies did run towards my extended hand before quickly running away again. On November 14, Tom entered the pen and the puppies ran from him frantically until he could pick one up. Tom said that two females and two males were $700 each.
There were four outdoor pens, two located just south of the barn and two located about 50’ east of the barn. Each pen was about 15’-20’ wide and long, had dirt floors, which by November 15 were muddy and partially covered in snow. Several days of feces were evident in all of the pens. Pens had walls made of either chain link, galvanized wire, or wood. Two of the pens two had brush covering about half of their areas, so that the dogs had limited room in which to move.. Each pen had wooden or plastic dog houses, which had no windbreaks or bedding in them of any kind. (717B.3(1)(d) Animal neglect: The shelter must protect the animal from wind, rain, snow or sun and have adequate bedding to provide reasonable protection against the cold and dampness.) By November 15, all of the dogs had wet fur, and the dirt floors of their doghouses were wet and muddy.
Of the two pens south of the barn, the western one had a dog that Tom said was born December of 2021; he said he would sell this dog for $600. On November 14, Tom tried to pick the dog up, but the dog ran circles around the pen to evade him until Tom finally caught the dog. The dog sat in Tom’s arms, but glanced at me while turning his face away as I petted him. The next day, the dog was lying in the mud, shivering, as I observed him in his pen before he got up to run away from me. The eastern pen, which had thick brush, had a dog with thick, dirty mats under the dog’s chest. Tom said the dog was six years old and that he would give me the dog if I bought a puppy from him. The dog ran back and forth through the brush and hid behind his dog house as we observed him.
Of the pens east of the barn, the southernmost had two dogs that Tom said were a breeding male and female. The northern pens had two dogs that Tom said were born in May of 2021; he said he would sell these dogs for $400 each. All of the dogs ran back and forth in the backs of their pens or stood near a corner at the far end of their pens as we observed them.
A dog was loose on the property, which Tom said was a breeding female. She had dirty mats on her ears, chin, and under her chest. The dog followed us as we walked around the property but stayed beyond arm’s reach from us, generally getting no closer than 15 feet to us. Tom told me the dog stayed outside, loose on the property.
Tom explained his breeding practices during my visits. He said he doesn’t have a state breeding license, but that he is aware he has too many dogs of breeding age, which he has had for too long, to be lacking a license. I asked if his dogs can walk on a leash, and he said he’s “had all of them out on a leash.” Tom added, “I’m one of these guys that I’m not gonna’ mess around. I use a choke chain to start with. And when they got drug about fifty feet they decided it was time to follow me.” Tom also mentioned that he shoots his puppies, saying that at one point he had 23 puppies and could only sell 15 of them, so he shot the remaining eight (717B.2(1) Animal abuse: A person commits animal abuse when the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly acts to inflict injury, serious injury, or death on an animal by force, violence or poisoning.) When I spoke to him about his dogs withstanding the cold, Tom said he thought they did fine in their outdoor pens in the snow because he felt Shelties could survive like that “in the wild.”
Tom claimed he is “kind of the minister” of a church and told me that he expects God to end the world during his lifetime.
Returning for Two Dogs
On November 18, I returned to the kennel to purchase two dogs from Tom. I bought both of the dogs that were alone in outdoor pens, on the south side of the barn that housed puppies: Miles (originally named Goliath and the brother of Leo, who was bought by the other investigator), whom Tom said was born May 4, 2021, and BooBear (originally named Mutt-Mutt), whom Tom said was six-years-old. Tom initially told me that if I bought Miles for $400 (a reduced price for being older), he would give me BooBear for free. I reasoned that for the price of less than one puppy, I could get two dogs out of the kennel. I also worried that BooBear may be killed, since he was no longer being used for breeding and Tom had bragged about killing puppies he couldn’t sell. Regardless, he upped the price when I arrived to buy the dogs.
At the kennel, I saw that the dogs’ pens had even more feces in them than I saw previously, and their water dishes were almost solid ice. Miles hid in his dog house. Tom pulled him out by grabbing him around the neck. He then carried Miles to a dog crate I had sitting by my car and set him inside. Tom put a leash on a collar that BooBear was wearing, but BooBear thrashed and jerked on the leash as Tom pulled him out of his pen. I then lifted BooBear up and put him in another crate.
Miles and BooBear taken to the vet
I drove the dogs straight to Rush Animal Care at 5330 NW Beaver Dr, Johnston, IA 50131. Dr. Rush and her staff examined both dogs, who laid in their crates and would not move as we tried to get them out. We took the tops off the crates to lift the dogs out of them. Miles peed on himself as he was lifted from his crate. As the dogs were examined, BooBear lay down in a vet-tech’s arms and did not otherwise move. Miles stood immobile, his tail between his legs. BooBear had a heavy brown build-up on his teeth, and Dr Rush noted he had previous hematomas in both ears. Miles was about 10 percent underweight and had flaky bumps on his skin on the left side of his neck. Fecal and blood samples were taken from both dogs, with whipworms and roundworms being found in the stool samples of Miles. After examination, they were put in separate pens with blankets to lay on, which Miles promptly laid down on.
Central Illinois Sheltie Rescue, further diagnosis of BooBear
On November 19, I picked the dogs up from the veterinarian’s office and took them to Central Illinois Shelter Rescue, run by Director Natalie Whalen and Assistant Director Mike Potter. The rescue had over a dozen dogs that were awaiting foster or adoption homes, including Leo, Miles’ brother. Despite being rescued only a week before, Leo walked up to the rescuers and me for attention and went up to Miles immediately to smell him and stay near him. Miles and BooBear were given microchips and tags, after which they and Leo were taken out of their crates and let into an outdoor play pen. BooBear stood still for several minutes, but as he watched Miles begin to follow Leo around the pen, the three began sniffing each other and following each other around the pen. When the dogs were brought back inside, Miles allowed a rescuer to pick him up and pet him for several minutes, eventually closing his eyes as he laid on the rescuer’s lap.
The rescue took Miles and BooBear to Eastland Companion Animal Hospital in Bloomington, IL on November 25, where BooBear was found to have six teeth that needed to be removed, a testicular tumor that was removed, and an umbilical hernia that was repaired.
Rescue and Charges Filed
I provided evidence to the Keokuk County Sheriff’s Department, and the case was handled by Chief Deputy Adam Pence. Pence noted that temperatures remained low in South English, getting down to -11°F on December 22. On December 28, Pence coordinated with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARLI) to rescue the remaining five dogs and four puppies on the property. Pence and ARLI convinced Grove to sign the dogs over to ARLI, which immediately transported the dogs to their shelter in Iowa. Then then transported the dogs to Central Illinois Sheltie Rescue while the County Attorney’s Office prepared charges. Due to the exhaustive work of the rescue, all the dogs, including Miles and BooBear, were fostered and adopted into permanent homes.
On March 9th of 2023, the Keokuk County Attorney filed eight animal neglect charges against Tom Grove.