37 Lake Ave Ext
Danbury, CT 06811
Date and time of CAPS investigation: 4/21/19; 17:08
Approximate number of puppies observed at time of investigation: 65
Puppies were kept in open-topped wire cages, with one to two puppies per cage. Cards on the cages showed cities and states of where puppies came from with no additional information about breeders. Underneath the clerk counter, facing the direction of the puppies but away from the front door and below waist height, were lists of breeders of who sell to the store and a sign offering USDA inspection reports to customers upon request. Above waist height and on the same side of the counter as the other forms was a typed letter by Ed Sayres, former CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, promoting commercial dog kennels.
I spoke to two employees at the store (Caucasian male, about 30 years old, 5’9″, 170 lbs., with long brown tied into a pony tail, and Caucasian female, about 35 years old, 5’6″, 130 lbs., with long brown hair). The male employee told me that “All of our breeders are USDA-licensed, and they have absolutely no violations,” and invited me to look at the USDA inspection reports in a folder at the counter. The female employee added, “Some of those breeders used to be hobby breeders, and so the laws changed. So, we have all the reports since they’ve been licensed.”
I asked if the dogs used to breed puppies for the store are kept in cages, and the female employee responded, “No, so they’re actually, the USDA regulations, they have to have a certain amount of space. And if they don’t have outdoor runs for the dogs, then the space they have to have inside is like triple the amount.” I asked, “Triple the amount?” and she added, “Yeah. What a lot of people get confused about is, if the USDA, if they only have a certain amount of space that’s like twice the length of the dog, then they have to have an outdoor area for the dog to exercise. If they don’t provide an outdoor exercise area and they just want the dog inside, the indoor area has to be…” and let the sentence hang. I then asked, “Really big?” and she responded, “Really big.”
I asked if the store owners visit breeders and the female employee said, “The owners were actually just visiting some breeders just recently,” and then offered to show me photographs of the store’s breeders.” The male employee added, “A lot of them are in the Midwest because there’s a lot of land out there.”
I was shown photographs of dogs and puppies running around in grassy yards and playing with children near flower beds. I was told dogs have outdoor areas to play in, as well as indoor runs. The female employee said, “Outdoor, and then indoor runs also … this is an indoor run. It’s tiled so it’s easier to clean and it’s sanitized.” I asked if that’s how all of the breeders keep their kennels, and she responded, “Yeah, I mean, this is how our own kennel is set up, too. And our own kennel is in Oklahoma now. It used to be in Connecticut, but we didn’t have enough space here. So, we have a cousin in Oklahoma that we built a property on.” She mentioned the kennel is called Captiva Kennel. While showing me photos, she specifically pointed out an outdoor exercise yard in one photo that had a grassy field and agility equipment set up on it. She told me that the USDA-licensed breeders who sell to the store would be written up for any violation they could possibly have, and that all of their inspections are unannounced.
The female employee reiterated to me that kennels in the Midwest that supply the store have indoor runs and outdoor exercise yards for their dogs. I then asked again, “Okay, so it’s not a little run on concrete or something? It’s out in the grass?” She answered, “Right. Right. Sometimes instead of grass they do artificial turf for sanitation purposes ….” She added, “Nowadays a lot of the photos you see online, that you know, activists are using. A lot of them are from the meat market, from North Korea and stuff. Most breeders, reputable breeders, are not breeding in that type of environment.”
I asked if dogs are overbred, and the female employee told me, “Dogs are not bred until they’re at least three years old.” She added, “Depending on the breeder, they may do both heat cycles and then wait until next year, or they’ll skip a cycle.”
Puppy Love’s website claims the following:
Our puppies come from many different breeders located all over the country. Many of which have dogs that are OFA certified. This means that they have been examined by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to check for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, congenital cardiac disease, inherited eye disease, etc. Breeding dogs who are OFA certified will greatly reduce the likelihood that the puppies will develop these disorders. This is the sign of a truly reputable breeder.
I asked the employee about OFA, which she identified as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. She described it by saying, “It’s not something about being a part of, it’s about something that breeders will have their veterinarians do. Some of our breeders’ vets will go through OFA, or they’ll do it themselves.” I asked, “What is it that they’re doing” and she responded, “They’re basically, what the OFA does, and what a vet can do in general, is make sure that hips, elbows, eyes, heart, all things like that, are clear. So, a dog isn’t bred with cataracts.” I then asked her to clarify what exactly an OFA certification means. She said, “That they’ve been, well, maybe not been cleared. They can get OFA certified, but it can say ‘test was bad,’ kind of thing,” and added, “The OFA could be for eyes, heart, hips, elbows, knees.” To clarify her earlier statement, I then asked, “Okay, and either the vet does it, or the breeder does it?” and she answered, “So, OFA, you can either have someone specifically from OFA do it, or your veterinarian can do the same test. Going through OFA costs two thousand dollars for each test, so not every breeder wants to pay for the tests if they can still do the certifications on their own. So, like, some of our breeders may have the OFA certifications, others, they just go through their veterinarian so they can say OFA cleared. But we know our breeders are using dogs that they’ve had checked. That’s why they don’t breed them until they’re at least three years old.”
Evidence of false statements and misrepresentations of breeders by store:
The employee’s claim that the store’s USDA-licensed breeders have “absolutely no violations” is false. See information below under the following breeders: Angie McDuffee, Angela Shubert, Brad Grotewold, Wilma and Jim Westhoff, and Linda Baker. See also information on broker Choice Puppies (The Hunte Corporation).
The employee’s claim that the USDA requires dogs to have triple the amount of space for an enclosure if there’s no outdoor portion is false. No such USDA regulation exists.
The employee’s claim that if there’s only enough enclosure space to be twice the length of the dog, then the breeder would require an outdoor exercise are, is false. No such USDA regulation exists.
The employee’s claim that commercial dog kennels are in the Midwest “because there’s a lot of land out there” is misleading. The vast majority of USDA-licensed commercial dog kennels in the Midwest keep dogs in cages and runs and do not provide them “a lot of land.” This is evident from the thousands of USDA-licensed kennels CAPS has documented.
The employee’s claim that USDA-licensed kennels all have grassy playgrounds and indoor tiled runs is false. While this potentially may exist, CAPS has obtained no documentation of any such USDA-licensed kennel of the thousands that CAPS has investigated.
The employee’s claim that USDA-licensed breeders are written up for any possible violation during inspections is false. The USDA has a policy called “teachable moments” and “self-inspections” in which their licensees are allowed to correct indirect violations so that inspectors do not document violations in reports.
The employee’s claim that information online against puppy mills consists of photographs of North Korean meat markets is false. CAPS, for example, provides photographs and video footage of USDA-licensed facilities in the United States.
The employee’s claims that “Dogs are not bred until they’re at least three years old” and, “Depending on the breeder, they may do both heat cycles and then wait until next year, or they’ll skip a cycle,” are false. CAPS has questioned dozens of USDA-licensed breeders about if they skip heat cycles. In only one instance did we come across a breeder who skipped cycles for a some of his smaller dogs but not the rest of his breeding stock.
The employee’s claim that breeders or their vets can do an OFA exam is false. I e-mailed The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to ask what is required for a breeder to be registered with their organization, and the following response came from their employee, Carol Skinner, on 5/2/19:
OFA has many different registries. Each registry has their own procedure and service fee. Listed below is a brief summary of the individual procedures.
1.) For OFA hip and/or elbow certification radiographs need to be taken by the veterinarian of your choice. These are submitted to the OFA along with the completed application form and service fee. The application can be downloaded from our web site at: https://www.ofa.org/veterinarian/application-forms Detailed instructions on the correct radiographic positioning and required film identification are included on the application.
Radiographs of animals 24 months of age or older are independently evaluated by three randomly selected, board-certified veterinary radiologists from a pool of 20 to 25 consulting radiologists throughout the USA in private practice and academia. Each radiologist evaluates the animal’s hip status considering the breed, sex, and age
2.) For OFA eye certification, an eye exam is perform by the ophthalmologist of your choice. A list of ophthalmologists can be found on their web site at: www.acvo.org At the time of the exam the ophthalmologist will provide the OFA application form. For OFA certification the completed eye application form is sent to OFA along with $12.00 service fee.
3.) For OFA thyroid certification, blood serum is processed by one of the seven approved labs listed on the attached OFA application form. The vet should call the lab for instructions before drawing blood. Everything is submitted to lab; i.e. OFA form/fee, Lab form/fee and blood serum. For OFA certification the lab will forwarded the provided OFA thyroid application & $15.00 service fee to OFA along with a copy of their lab report once their process has been completed. The OFA thyroid application can be downloaded from our web site at: https://www.ofa.org/veterinarian/application-forms
4.) OFA has two cardiac registries:
For OFA congenital cardiac certification, an auscultation examine needs to be performed by a practitioner, specialist or cardiologists. Attached is the cardiac application with instructions and fee. For OFA certification the completed form is sent to OFA along with $15.00 service fee. The cardiac application can be downloaded from our web site at: https://www.ofa.org/veterinarian/application-forms
For the Advanced Cardiac evaluation each dog is to be examined and classified by a veterinary cardiologist. At the time of the exam the cardiologists will provide the OFA application form. For OFA certification the completed white copy of the eye application is sent to OFA along with $15.00 service fee.
5.) For the OFA Dentition certification, a dental exam needs to be performed by the vet verifying number of teeth The completed and signed attached dentition application needs to be sent to OFA along with $15.00 service fee. The dentition application can also be downloaded from our web site at: https://www.ofa.org/veterinarian/application-forms
6.) There are a few DNA kits available from the OFA’s web site at: https://secure.ofa.org/dnatesting/kits.html. The fee for the test kit is $65 and includes the test kit, laboratory processing, and subsequent registration in the OFA databases. These test kits are ordered online through the secure area of the OFA website. Payment is accepted online by credit card (MasterCard and VISA). The OFA administers all order handling. Upon receipt of an order, the OFA will send out the test kit which will include an FTA card for salvia sample collection, along with sample collection instructions. Using the FTA card technology, owners can safely collect DNA samples at home. The collection process is non-invasive, and no veterinary appointment is necessary
Other labs provide DNA testing. A list of testing labs can be found on our web site at: https://www.ofa.org/diseases/dna-tested-diseases/all-dna-tests To OFA certify existing DNA test results (from other labs) please complete the attached DNA application form and return to OFA along with copy of lab report and $15.00 service fee.
The following were obtained from USDA inspection reports in the store (not all USDA reports were documented):
- Angie McDufee, AJ’s Angels, Cushing, MN 41-A-0484 (formerly Clearwater Kennels)
Clearwater Kennels, owned by Wanda Kretzman (formerly McDuffee; she owned Happy Tails with then husband, Gary, which CAPS investigated in 2005; USDA fined them $7,000 shortly thereafter) was the largest dog breeding kennel in Minnesota, housing over 1,200 dogs and puppies. Kretzman agreed to pay a fine of $25,000 and to drop her license, which she did on March 9, 2016. The same day, USDA granted a license to AJ’s Angels to operate the kennel on the same property. Angie McDuffee is the daughter-in-law of Wanda Kretzman.
- Morris Chapel, TN, 63-B-0175 (Angela Shubert, A-1 Puppy)
Angela Shubert in Morris Chapel, TN, 63-B-0175, had a 2014 inspection report citing her for no written veterinary care program, dogs not microchipped, and puppies’ feet passing through openings on the wire floor bottoms. When I investigated Shubert’s facility in 2015, she had 600 adult dogs and 120 puppies. She stated that she had three or four satellite facilities. Additional premises must be inspected by USDA. None of Shubert’s USDA reports indicate other locations. We reported the existence of satellite locations to USDA.
Angela Shubert, A-1 Puppy investigation report and video
- Gayle Arnett, 31956 Indian Creek Rd, Edwards, MO 43-A-4029
- Bernita & Carleen Berntsen, Berntsen’s Kennel, 3061 Utah Rd, La Harpe, KS 66751, 48-A-0907
- John Blaes, 522 North Maple St, Cherryvale, KS 67335, 48-A-2142 (note this USDA license # is different from older inspection reports found online)
- Kathie & William Blomberg, 9405 McCasland Rd, Versailles, MO 65084, 43-A-1116
The Blombergs’ 2013 inspection report listed myriad eye issues, including lesions, cloudy eyes, discharge, and film on eyes. Other violations included hair loss on tail, fecal matter matted underneath tail, hole in floor of dog enclosure, exposed food container with no lid,and self-feeders with food waste and grim.
The following were obtained from a list of breeders posted in the store:
Breeder / Transporter or Broker
- Eli King, 11305 N Centerville Rd, Williamsburg, IN 47393 / Blue Ribbon 8478 N 1000 E Loogootee, IN
- Shea Baily, 1725 CR 404, Berryville, AR 72616 / Choice Puppies, 121 N Royhill Blvd, Goodman, MO
- Nicholas Wagler, 9997 E 550 N, Loogootee, IN 47553 / Choice Puppies
- Jeff Wilson, 16920 Gazelle Dr, Neosho, MO 64850-1356 / Choice Puppies
- Brad (B.E.) Grotewold, 1405 N 3rd Ave E, Lake Mills, IA 50450 / Choice Puppies
Grotewold’s 2011 inspection report cited violations for rusty enclosures, grime and dirt in enclosures, fecal accumulation with maggots and flies, large hole chewed through one enclosure to another, and chewed, worn wood.
- Paw Print Kennel, 3650 N 1150 W, Shipshewana, IN 46565 / Blue Ribbon
- Delmar Ray Yoder, 22283 NW Yoder St, Welda, KS / Choice Puppies
- Joe Hershberger, 421 NW Hwy C, Spickard, MO 64679 / Choice Puppies
- Peter Schwartz, 75 Mountain Rd, Seymour, MO 65746 / Jeanne’s Gems, 1956 235th Ave, West Point, IA
- Wilma & Jim Westhoff, 13450 Gray Rd, Chanute, KS / Wilma Westhoff
Westhoff’s 2011 USDA violations included two serious veterinary care violations: a dog with an infected eye that had cream film over eyeball, crusty substance around eye, eyeball an abnormal shape, and very red eye, and a mother dog, who recently lost puppies and was suffering from poor body condition, a possible infection. Other violations included chewed or worn doors and frames and dirty, grime, grease and cobwebs in shelters.
- Matthan Schwartz, 8905 Tunnelmill Rd, Marysville, IN 47141 / Blue Ribbon
- Darla Hilton, 426 Gardenia Rd, Broken Bow, OK 74728 / Choice Puppies
- AJ’s Angels (Angie McDuffee), 24303 US Hwy 10, Cushing, MN 56443 / Choice Puppies
- Devon Schrock, 10551 CR 24, Middlebury, IN 46540 / Blue Ribbon
- Daryl Bontrager, 10665 W 325 N, Shipshewana, IN 46565 / Daryl Bontrager
- John Blaes, 522 N Mapple St, Cherryvale, KS 67335 / John Blaes
- Clarence Bontrager, 8804 N St Rd 19, Etna Green, IN 46524 / Blue Ribbon
- Jonathan Detweiler, 12824 Hwy D, Princeton, MO 64673 / Blue Ribbon
- Annette Moeller, 216 162 St, West Point, IA 52656-9266 / Jeanne’s Gems
- Marlin Dibbet, 4129 Hickory Ave, Sioux Center, IA 51250 / Choice Puppies
- Andrew Garber, 7632 Martin Rd, Bradford, OH 45308 / Andrew Garber
- Fannie Schwartz, 3659 Normandy Rd, Seymour, MO 65746 / Jeanne’s Gems
- Tim Pendleton, 116 Hwy 42, Dixon, MO 65459 / Choice Puppies
- Larry & Barbara Graber, 2822 N 1000 E, Loogootee, IN 47553 / Blue Ribbon
- Linda Baker, 9114 Hwy A H, Huggins, MO 65484 / Choice Puppies
Baker’s 2013 inspection report cited numerous veterinary care violations, including brown, hard material on teeth, eye discharge, cloudy eyes and expired medications.
- Theresa Coley, PO Box 1753, Waldron, AR 72958-1735 / Choice Puppies
- Marilyn Graber, PO Box 364, Odon, IN 47562 / Blue Ribbon
- Joan Dale, 54463 Foxtrot Ave, Knox City, MO 63446 / Joan Dale
- Mark Raber, 10853 E 875 N, Odon, IN 47562 / Blue Ribbon
- Ammon Zimmerman, 10162 Sickles Ln, Stitzer, WI 53825 / Jeanne’s Gems
- June Paxton, 612 SE 6th St, Greenfield, IA 50849 / Jeanne’s Gems
- T’s Cuddly Pups, 4799 Vineyard Cave Rd, Mansfield, MO 65704 / Choice Puppies]
- Josh & Michael Garber, 7908 Children’s Home Bradford Rd, Bradford, OH / Josh Garber
- Megan & Lonny Proctor, 2981 Hwy H, Farmington, MO, 63640 / Megan Proctor
- Jacob Hochstedler, 6503 West Trails West, Hutchinson, KS 67501 / Choice Puppies
- Vicky Martin, 74 Hwy 52, Meta, MO 65058-2112 / Choice Puppies
- Merle Coblentz, 11878 Hilltop Rd, Baltic, OH 43804 / Choice Puppies
- Janet Hopper, 472259 East 690 Rd, Westville, OK 74965 / Choice Puppies
- Ladonna Dailey, 10078 Farm Road 2090, Purdy, MO 65734 / Choice Puppies
Dailey’s 2014 USDA violations include dog with hair loss and open lesions on face.
- Caleb Yoder, 5468 E 900 N, Plainville, IN 47568 / Blue Ribbon
- David Kurtz, 12395 Gregor Rd, Augusta, WI 54722 / Choice Puppies
- Phillip Bontrager, E 15408 Maple Ln, Hillsboro, WI 54636 / Choice Puppies
Choice Puppies (The Hunte Corporation), Goodman, MO
The Hunte Corporation (now doing business under the name Choice Puppies), is a broker (USDA “B” license) in Goodman, MO. Before Andrew Hunte passed away and his wife sold the company to new owners, Hunte was the largest broker in the country, shipping as many as 2,000 puppies a week to pet shops. A CAPS investigator worked undercover at Hunte for six months in 2004. They use numerous puppy mill breeders in the Midwest, some of whom CAPS investigated. Booking agents, some of whom work directly for Hunte and others who are small brokers, work directly with the breeders to “book” the puppies. The booking agents transport the puppies from around the Midwest to Hunte.
Undercover at Hunte – An Expose of America’s Largest Supplier of Pet Shop Puppies
From Puppy Mill to Pet Shop – What the Hunte Corporation Doesn’t Want You to Know