Breeder: Ervin Bontrager
Address: S 4195 Chicken Hollow Rd
City, State, Zip: Hillsboro, WI 54634
USDA License: 35-A-0378
Date of CAPS Investigation: 7/14/18
Time of CAPS Investigation: 17:45

Weather at time of investigation: 82°F and mostly cloudy

Approximate number of dogs observed at time of investigation: about 25 dogs and 20 puppies

Breeds: Puggles, Teddy Bears, Shih Tzu, Bichons, Boston Terriers, Pugs, Poodles

Ervin Bontrager (Caucasian Amish male, about 5’8”, 160 lbs, with short red hair, a curly red beard about four inches long, no moustache, and glasses with no bottom rim on the frame) showed me his kennel containing small-breed dogs, saying he had an additional kennel that was a new building elsewhere on the property.

Small-breed dog/whelping building
A whelping building on the southeastern side of the property had indoor/outdoor cages on each of two sides, made with treated wire walls and floorings. About half of the indoor cages had thicker-gauge wire sheets or rubber mats covering 25-50% of the wire flooring. There were about eight cages on the western side of the building that contained either breeding dogs, whelping mothers and puppies, or litters of puppies. The eastern side held breeding dogs in about seven cages. Breeder cages held two to four dogs each. Fecal stains were evident on an angled wooden flooring below the indoor cages (Sec 3.11 Cleaning, Sanitization, Housekeeping, and Pest Control (c) Housekeeping for premises). The inside of the building had a strong ammonia odor and stank of feces and urine (Sec 3.11 Cleaning, Sanitization, Housekeeping, and Pest Control (a) Cleaning of primary enclosures).

The northeastern breeder cage held an adult Poodle and Shih Tzu. The Shih Tzu, a brown dog with a small amount of white on the animal’s chest, had mats encrusting the dog’s fur around the dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth, making the dog’s eyes almost impossible to see (Sec 2.40 Attending Veterinarian and Adequate Veterinary Care (a) Adequate veterinarian care). The doggie-door allowing access to the outdoor cage had a particle board farm, with the top and sides chewed and worn. The top was chewed about half an inch back from the side boards (Sec 3.1 Housing Facilities, General (c) Surfaces (1) General requirements). A rubber mat covering about 40% of the flooring was covered in what appeared to be fecal and urine stains (Sec 3.1 Housing Facilities, General (c) Surfaces (3) Cleaning).

The southeastern breeder cage held two Shih Tzus, one with mats so thick covering the dogs face that it was almost impossible to see the dog’s eyes. About 20 dark brown mats of dirty hair, each about a quarter to half an inch thick and two to four inches long, were sticking out from the dog’s face around the dog’s eyes (Sec 2.40 Attending Veterinarian and Adequate Veterinary Care (a) Adequate veterinarian care). Several times the Shih Tzu shook her head rapidly while I observed her. The wooden frame of the doggie-door was chewed and worn on the edges and top corners of the frame, where the wood was worn back from one quarter to one inch from the rest of the frame. Most of the damage was done to the top of the frame (Sec 3.1 Housing Facilities, General (c) Surfaces (1) General requirements).

The flooring below the breeder cages had standing, murky, brown water under several cages that was about four to six inches wide, running down to a hole at the southern end of the indoor cages. Below the southern two cages the water pooled to an area about a foot wide and three feet long (Sec 3.11 Cleaning, Sanitization, Housekeeping, and Pest Control (a) Cleaning of primary enclosures).

A whelping pen contained a Puggle mother and five puppies. Ervin said the puppies are three quarters Pugs, but he sells them as Pugs and doesn’t have them registered. He said that he mainly raises crossbreed puppies and holds back puppies for breeding at his kennel.

Ervin told me that he sells all of his puppies to J.A.K.’s Puppies in Iowa.

Conditions contradicting pet store claims
I visited the pet store Puppy Experience in Aquebogue, NY on 5/19/18. I saw Bontrager’s USDA license number on an enclosure for a puppy, by the name “Ervin Borntrager.” I spoke to an employee (Caucasian female, about 30 years old, 5’8”, 130 lbs with long brown hair in a thick braid) at the store who claimed the store’s breeders’ dogs are not in wire-bottomed cages and are all in runs. The employee showed me pictures of kennels in a folder, with dogs in clean in door runs and outdoor runs. She claimed those were the conditions all breeders keep their dogs in.

Bontrager’s dogs living in worn wire cages with fecal stains and brown, murky flooring under the cages contradicts the employees claims about the clean conditions and runs.