The Barking Boutique
4547 28th St SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512
(616) 446-6766

Date and time of CAPS investigation: 3/21/24, 13:29

Approximate number of puppies observed at time of investigation: 40 puppies

There were about 15 open-topped puppy enclosures in the store. They were glass-walled and glass-floored pens, each about four feet wide and three feet long, with walls about three feet high. Each enclosure held two to four puppies and had blankets to cover a small portion of the flooring; the enclosures also had toys, and water bottles attached to walls. A play pen with short walls was in the center of the room. This pen, which had four puppies, had a miniature house-shaped piece of equipment for the puppies to walk up into.

Employee seemed to confuse pedigrees with inspection reports

I asked the worker about breeders that the store uses. Like employees at many pet stores, she seemed to confuse pedigrees with government inspections and the treatment of puppies at the store with the treatment of breeding dogs in kennels. When said I wanted to make sure that the store’s puppies aren’t coming from puppy mills, she immediately showed me a pedigree for a puppy (bred by Gallon Knepp in Oden, IN), and noted that some pedigrees will point out if the breeders are “hobby” breeders.

Employee claimed a TikTok video proved the store doesn’t use puppy mills

I then asked her if she knew any specifics about what the breeders are like. She responded that she didn’t, but that she knows another worker who went on a breeder tour and uploaded a video of the breeders on TikTok. She told me, “But I’ve seen videos, and it’s a very open space. They have fields for them to …. Obviously, it’s fenced in. And then they have those play area or play mats for them to sleep on. That’s super soft.” She also explained that most of the store’s breeders are Amish and stated that while “Amish are usually the puppy mill breeders, I can definitely assure you that I have three dogs [from] in here, and I would not get three dogs if I knew it was a puppy mill.”

Lies about breeding dogs

I asked her how long dogs are bred for and what happens to them when they are no longer breeding.  She said, “So you usually have about two or three litters, which is a recommended amount. For bigger dogs, sometimes they can go four or five if they’re healthy enough. But after ,we take the mama dogs or the dad dogs, and we help rehome them for them [the breeders].” Surprised by her claim, since the store had no adult dogs in it, I asked, “Oh, really?” She said, “So, once in a while, or they’ll keep them as their own pet. But once in a while, you’ll see, we had an older puppy here. We had a big Goldendoodle, and we had a Golden Retriever before. We had a Pomeranian and a Pomsky, and all of those stuff that we helped rehome.” She seemed to be confusing dogs and puppies, since Pomskies most often have Pomeranian and Husky parents (as opposed to Pomsky parents, which can involve inbreeding), and Golden Doodles often have Golden Retriever and Standard Poodle parents (as opposed to Goldendoodles).

Her confusion became more apparent when I said, “And then what else was I supposed to ask? Oh, if you know how many they have, if they have ten or a hundred, or if it just depends.” She asked, “Like puppies?” I said, “Dogs.” She gave a confusing answer when she said, “Oh, dogs? It just depends. Usually, they’ll have, I mean, you saw the pedigrees, the five-generation pedigree. So obviously, they’ll have certain numbers of dogs because of pedigrees. But that also depends on age at the time.

She added that the dogs are “big open areas,” but also said they “don’t have to worry about humans.” She explained this was a good thing by saying, “They’re by themselves with their little babies.”

I asked to see paperwork on Pomeranian puppy, and she showed me papers which identified the breeder as Lavern Wagler in Oden, IN, listed as a “hobby breeder.”

On 5/9/24, at 1347, I spoke to an employee of the store about the closed Comstock Park location. I asked if the owner of Grand Rapids, David, also owned Comstock Park, and the employee conformed that is the case.

Evidence of false statements and misrepresentations of breeders by store

The employee’s description of the commercial breeders the store uses is untrue. Dogs are kept in kennel environments and do not have open access to play yards. On 4/15/24, I investigated one of the store’s breeders, Dennis Wagler (unlicensed) in Montgomery, IN, where I saw dogs in small outdoor runs, with plastic barrels for dog houses and no enrichment of any kind. On the same day, I also investigated another of the store’s breeders, Ivan Knepp in Montogemery, IN, where I saw dogs in concrete runs with wire walls. A small dirty exercise yard was attached to the runs, with no dog toys or enrichment. There was no “field” or “big open area” for the dogs to play in as an exercise yard as the employee described. Likewise, on 4/16/24, I documented the store’s breeder, Dorcas Swartzentruber, in Logootee, IN, who had dogs in dirty pens attached to a small shed; he had no field for dogs to roam in.

I visited one breeder who did have open areas for the dogs but not in the manner described by the pet store employee. On 4/16/24, I visited the store’s breeders, Ivan and Barb Wagler (32-A-0497), in Loogootee, IN. I saw about 40 dogs at the facility, with five in the largest, most open pens available for dogs to play in. A separate play area in a yard, near a row of concrete dog runs, was unused. The facility also had raised cages with dogs in them. The cages were designed so it was not only difficult to see the dogs inside but difficult for the dogs in the cages to see anything outside of their enclosures.

On 4/18/24, I investigated the kennel of Jerry Lambright in LaGrange, IN. Lambright is noted in a 2023 CVI as a breeder for The Barking Boutique in Comstock Park, a closed location that an employee of Grand Rapids confirmed was also owned by David Boelkes. At Lambright’s kennel, I saw dogs and puppies in dirt and rock runs, with dirty bones inside amongst piles of manure. A small grass yard outside the runs was enclosed with a privacy fence, but it weeds and cleaning supplies lined one side of the fence, indicating it was not used as an exercise yard.

The worker’s claim that some dogs are bred only two or three times is false. Female dogs are bred every cycle that they are in heat, generally until they are five or six years old. The dogs exist for the profit of the commercial breeders. Puppy mills do not limit breeding because of the dogs’ welfare. Breeding ends when dogs are no longer profitable for the breeder.

The worker’s claim that the store adopts out the spent breeding dogs of their breeders is a lie. The store uses breeders who have dozens or even over a hundred dogs. For example, Dusty Road Kennel (32-A-0540), owned by Joseph and Rhonda Graber in Odon, IN, had 132 dogs and 85 puppies at its 1/31/24 USDA inspection.

Breeder information obtained during store investigation

Lavern Wagler, 9576 E 925 N, Odon,, IN 47562, unlicensed

Broker information obtained from 2023 Certificates of Veterinary Inspection

Lovable Goldstar Puppies,,10242 E 1475 N, Odon,, IN, 32-B-0242,113 puppies at 10/14/23 USDA inspection

Patrick Fulton, Fulton Enterprises, 603 S Broadway, Alden MN, 41-B-0262, 0 puppies at 12/20/23 USDA inspection

Breeder information obtained from 2023 Certificates of Veterinary Inspection


Malinda Hilty, Four Corner Puppies, 10512 Schwartz Rd., Ft. Wayne, IN 46835, 32-A-1003, 32 adults at 3/21/24 USDA inspection; also sells through their own website. 

Previous CAPS pet shop investigations listed Malinda’s husband as the breeder. This information is from the Petland Wichita investigation on 8/13/21: James Hilty/Four Corner Puppies, 10512 Schwartz Rd, Fort Wayne, IN, 32-B-0257, 30 adults, 40 puppies at 7/15/21 USDA inspection. License address is 9801 Fall Creek Rd, #322, Indianapolis, IN on 2/21/21 and 7/30/21 reports, although this is a UPS store. Prior license lists Ft. Wayne address on 2018 and 2019 inspection reports. Actual facility in Ft. Wayne is 122 miles from the UPS store in Indianapolis.

The Hiltys also own Pawfect Puppies, PO Box 75, Grabill, IN, 32-B-0276. Grabill is north of Ft. Wayne. Their 3/21/24 inspection had 19 puppies. Why is USDA allowing facilities that require inspections to have their addresses at post office boxes? The inspections under both licenses are all on the same dates, which indicates that the Hiltys are most likely keeping animals listed under Four Corner Puppies and Pawfect Puppies at 10512 Schwartz Rd, Ft. Wayne, IN., which is the Hilty residence.

Vernon Miller, 3515 N 200 E, LaGrange, IN, 32-A-0610, 25 adults, 15 puppies at 11/23/23 USDA inspection

Henry & Amos Wagler, 10690 E 200 N, Loogootee, IN, 32-A-0244, 72 adults, 47 puppies at 1/4/24 USDA inspection

Ivan and Barb Wagler, 7131 N 1200 E, Loogootee, IN, 32-A-0497, 59 adults, 49 puppies at 8/23/22 USDA inspection

Matthew Eicher, 11890 E 800 N, Loogootee, IN, 32-A-1000, 16 adults, 25 puppies at 2/28/24 USDA inspection

Ephraim Graber, 11031 E 350 N, Loogoote,e IN, 32-A-0887, 37 dogs, 11 puppies at 6-7-22 USDA inspection

Jason & Loren Wagler, 6012 E 550 N, Montgomery, IN, 32-A-0937, 12 adults, 10 puppies at 5/31/23 USDA inspection

Melvin Knepp, 7509 N 1000 E, Montgomery, IN, 32-A-0441, 75 adults, 8 puppies at 7/27/21 USDA inspection; USDA has not inspected this breeder in nearly three years.

Royden Graber, 6658 N 900 E, Montgomery, IN, 32-A-0728, 17 adults,32 puppies at 10/27/22 USDA inspection

Larry Raber, 6492 N 775 E, Montgomery, IN,32-A-0557, 34 adults,16 puppies at 2/14/24 USDA inspection

Philip Graber, 8385 E 875 N, Odon, IN, 32-A-0506, 30 adults, 25 puppies at 8/8/23 USDA inspection

David Wittmer, Pine Tree Kennel, 15015 N 900 E, Odon, IN, 32-A-0825, 22 adults, 9 puppies at 7/15/21 USDA inspection

Cedar Valley Puppies, 9445 N 875 E, Odon, IN, 32-A-0704, 49 dogs,29 puppies at 5/9/24 USDA inspection

Levi Wagler, 10478 E 1000 N, Odon, IN, 32-A-0757, 21 adults, 12 puppies at 2-13-2024 USDA inspection

Joseph and Rhonda Graber, Dusty Road Kennel, 9258 E 875 N, Odon, IN, 32-A-0540, 132 adults, 85 puppies at 1/31/24 USDA inspection

Paul Knepp, 3224 E 450 N, Washington, IN, 32-A-0501, 30 adults, 10 puppies at 4/4/23 USDA inspection

David Troyer, 18851 Kofhal Rd, Licking, MO, 43-A-6667, 15 adults, 13 puppies at 8/15/23 USDA inspection

Ben Schwartz, 14500 Crow Rd, Licking, MO, 43-A-6707, 120 adults,116 puppies at 3/7/23 USDA inspection


Eugene Yoder, 14872 CR 126, Goshen, IN

Wayne Bontrager, 14810 CR 126, Goshen, IN

Norman Wagler, 6533 N 1100 E, Loogootee, IN

Theresa Schwartz, 10251 E 200 N, Loogootee, IN

James Wagler, 6512 N 1200 E, Loogootee, IN

Dorcas Swartzentruber, 9754 N 1300 E, Loogootee, IN

Gary Gingerich, 60469 CR 43, Middlebury, IN

John Wingard, 0705 N 1200 W, Middlebury, IN

Teresa Wagler, PO Box 85, Montgomery, IN

Dennis Wagler, Dennis and Amanda Stoll, 5076 N 575 E, Montgomery, IN

Ivan Knepp, 4193 N 650 E, Montgomery, IN

Leroy Yoder, 5928 N 850 E, Montgomery, IN

Randell Graber, 4065 E 550 N, Montgomery, IN

Myron Raber, 2600 N 800 E, Montgomery, IN

Stephen Graber, 3589 N 900 E, Montgomery, IN

Marlin Wagler, 2445 N 500 E, Montgomery, IN

Wilmer Wagler, 4393 E 200 N, Montgomery, IN

Nelson Graber, 8320 E 800 N, Montgomery, IN

John Wittmer, 9255 E 925 N, Odon,, IN

Kenny Graber, 8607 E 1050 N, Odon,, IN

AnnMae Graber, 11303 E 1000 N, Odon,, IN

Josiah Wagler, 104345 N 700 E, Odon,, IN

Randall Stoll, 7817 E 875 N, Odon, IN

Lavern Raber, 9680 E 925 N, Odon, IN

Owen Stoll, 8944 N 1025 E, Odon, IN

Jonathon Wagler, 8418 N 900 E, Odon, IN

Halle Bergman, 8926 N 750 E, Ossian, IN

Brian Miller, 9525 W 100 S, Shipshewana, IN

Note regarding number of dogs at above breeding facilities

The number of adult breeding dogs and puppies at the above facilities is consistent with being commercial breeding establishments, also known as puppy mills, that mass produce dogs for resale to pet shops.  Please refer to the following link (Summary of legal cases defining “puppy mill”) for a summary of legal cases defining the term “puppy mill.”

Lack of USDA violations

The fact that few breeders and brokers have USDA violations does not mean that none exist. During our undercover investigation of USDA-licensed facilities, we document violations. USDA has made it very easy for licenses not to have violations.  In response to regulatory ordinances, USDA was using teachable moments, self-inspections and a trial announced inspection program.  Their guidelines also instructed inspectors not to cite ear, eye and dental diseases as veterinary care violations. Due to pressure from animal advocates, USDA has terminated these programs. Nonetheless, the citation of violations by inspectors continues to be extremely limited.

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