Breeder: Aaron Bontrager
Address: 14140 County Rd 44
City, State, Zip: Millersburg, IN 46543
USDA License: none

Date and time of CAPS Investigation: 4/18/24; 1157

Weather at time of investigation: 58 °F and partly cloudy

Approximate number of dogs and puppies observed at time of investigation: five dogs and four puppies

Breeds: Shih Tzu, unknown (too matted to determine)

The kennel was a row of raised cages set into a barn. It had matted dogs living above months of their own feces. There were three enclosures total, each with an indoor/outdoor section. Indoor sections were made of entirely flat plastic sheets. Outdoor cages had walls of either galvanized wire or thick metal bars and black floorings filled with small holes. Two enclosures each had two breeding dogs, and one had a whelping mother and puppies. Enclosures had indoor and outdoor portions that were about two feet tall and four feet wide and long. The outdoor whelping cage was about two feet long. Additionally, outdoor cages had walls in the middle of them and two doggie doors each, but their indoor portions did not have dividing walls inside.

Dogs were either white or white with brown coloring in spots on their fur. Four puppies, appearing to be Shih Tzus, each about five weeks old, were on the plastic flooring inside the whelping enclosure. The dogs each appeared to be about 15 pounds in weight, but their exact size was difficult to determine because their fur was several inches long and filled with small mats. Because the dog were so unkempt, I couldn’t determine the breed.

It is possible that Borntrager, who is unlicensed, has at least five breeding females. He would be violating federal regulations by not having a USDA license in order to sell to pet shops.

2.1(a)(3) of the Animal Welfare Act regulations requires that a person who has at least five breeding female dogs or cats and makes at least $500 in gross income a year from the sale of these animals must have a USDA license. This regulation applies to breeders selling to brokers, pet shops and online customers

The ground below the cages was coated in a layer of straw and feces that appeared to be months’ worth of accumulation. The concrete ground outside the outer cages was also littered with straw as well as sheep manure. The south side of the outer cages had pieces of scrap wood leaning against them and a pile of wooden pallets stacked a few feet away.

One of the breeder’s children walked me into the barn, which was difficult to see in despite sunlight shining through a window and open doggie doors. One of the dogs was on the floor of the barn when we entered, lying on their stomach immobile while the child picked the dog up to put back into an enclosure. Bits of dog food were scattered about the floor, and a plastic spray bottle, partially filled with a blue liquid, was hanging from a water line above the puppies in the whelping enclosure.

The breeder is connected to the following store:

Teacups & Toys A Pet Boutique LLC, Birmingham, MI (CVI 2023)

I investigated Teacups & Toys on 3/20/24. The owner told me uses local breeders, which Bontrager is not, and that he visits his breeders and hand selects puppies from them. He told me that he does not use puppy mills, and when I asked the owner if dogs are in cages, he said, “Well, No, no. More than anything, they’re more in an exercise pen.” The conditions Bontrager keeps his dogs are those of the quintessential puppy mill, and his dogs are, in fact, in cages instead of exercise pens. Also, it is unlikely the owner drives all the way to Millersburg, IN to visit and hand select puppies from Bontrager.


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