This is a cautionary tale about my experience buying an incredibly amazing Sheepadoodle puppy named Maddie in August 2021.
TLDR: If you recognize any of the names above, be extremely careful and do extensive due diligence.
Let’s get straight to it, with the question I’m sure lots of people are asking. Is Country Air Sheepadoodles – located at 181 Whitechurch St RR#5, Lucknow, ON N0G 2H0 and operated by Jonathan Gerber – a Mennonite puppy mill? At the time of writing this post, I can’t be sure, so I’m not going to say it is. Is Country Air a reputable and ethical Sheepadoodle breeder who cares about the health of the dogs? I would say no, they are not a reputable breeder, but you can make up you own mind if they’re a mill or if they’re reputable, based on the facts I’ll present to you.
Let’s get one thing crystal clear, so you are not confused: Cute pictures of puppies does not equal a reputable breeder. Read it again. If you go on Facebook and research Country Air, and see either pictures on their own Facebook page or website, or the many people gushing their praises in the Canadian Sheepadoodles group, do not be taken in. Again, just because some people are lucky enough to have received an issue-free dog and find the dog cute or beautiful, does not mean they are a reputable or ethical breeder. IMHO, it’s pretty stupid to say “my dog is so cute, what a great breeder”. Don’t be that person.
Before we get into it, let’s look at the players identified so far over the last week:
- Jonathan Gerber – operator of Country Air Sheepadoodles and the main point of contact. According to the website, Jonathan is a Mennonite farmer who runs a small farm just outside Lucknow, Ontario (Whitechurch to be specific).
- Diane Daniels Proper – supposedly runs the Country Air website and Facebook page, and is active on Facebook promoting Country Air. Has also told people she is a guardian parent, and has spoken to customers in the past. According to Facebook, she lives in Clinton, Ontario, close to Gerber.
- Tejwant Chahal – the vet from Chahal Vetinary Services (Facebook / Google), who is currently signing off on Country Air wellness checks and administering round 1 of puppy vaccinations. According to various online sources, Tejwant is known to be a Mennonite Puppy Mill vet, and has had many complaints made about him to the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, although he currently still has a license (shame on you CVO).
- Dixie Animal Hospital – closely linked to Tejwant Chahal, their phone number appears on the stamp found on vaccinations records provided by Country Air. Dixie Animal Hospital is run by a relative of Tejwant, Kanwar Chahal, apparently his son. They claim to be a backup number, and a hospital if you require urgent care when Tejwant is on the road.
- “Jess” – A Kijiji profile that sells puppies on Kijiji for Country Air Sheepadoodles, at a much lower price than if you contact Country Air Directly.
Summary of Facts
Fact 1: Country Air Sheepadoodles Knowingly Sells Sick Dogs
TLDR: Country Air sold me and multiple other people sick dogs over the course of August and September, 2021. When informed, they continued selling sick dogs without disclosing this information to buyers.
On August 14, Country Air sold me a sick dog that had both Coccidia and Giardia parasites, and a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) caused by the diarrhea.
When I arrived on site, I was told by Gerber it may have some diarrhea, which was due to the deworming medications it had received two days prior, and some probiotic would help. Yes, this can happen, but it is definitely not guaranteed to happen; it’s also a convenient cover story for the diarrhea. I was also provided a tube of probiotic, as were other customers who picked up puppies in the weeks since then, who were told the same thing about the dewormer.
After 10 days of near continuous diarrhea, it was diagnosed with Coccidia, an intestinal parasite, which was treated.
Note: Some veterinarians recommend a fecal test as standard if your puppy has diarrhea, which I strongly agree with after this experience. Go immediately for the test.
A more comprehensive fecal antigen lab test after the Coccidia treatment then concluded the Coccidia was gone, but the pup also had Giardia. At the time, a UTI was also diagnosed, as the dog been urinating on itself since it came home, which did not seem normal. I incurred vet bills of approximately $1500 so far to treat these issues, with more testing bills coming.
After the first vet visit, I informed Gerber about the positive Coccidia (it is very infectious and can be very serious, and it was likely other dogs were affected), but he did not respond to my email. Instead, he just sent me $500 to cover my first vet bill.
Since then, I have spoken with multiple other people, who have collected dogs from Country Air in the past few years – and in the last 2 months – which have also been infected with Giardia, Coccidia and even Parvo. One dog spent a week in intensive care, being treated for Parvo, and barely survived. It came home a few days ago.
The most important part about this fact is that I have confirmed that Gerber continued to sell sick puppies after I had informed him of Coccidia, and he did not disclose this information to customers who visited after he was informed. When questioned about this via e-mail, his response is shown below.
Don’t forget two important points here. Firstly, I had informed him on Aug 24 that the puppy had Coccidia, and he did not respond to ask for evidence. Second, when I pointed out (in a later email) that evidence could easily have been provided should he have needed it, he also did not address that point.
In addition, a gentleman who got his dog on Aug 28 was not told about this issue, and his dog ended up in intensive care. He also told Gerber, on advice of his vet, there was a problem. Since he told Gerber, another girl I spoke with has also picked up a sick dog with diarrhea this past weekend. Update Sep 14: The dog in the aforementioned sentence has now also been confirmed with Coccidia and Giardia.
Fact 2: Country Air Sheepadoodles Covers Up The Fact They Sell Sick Dogs
Coccidia is an infectious parasite which can cause serious health problems, including dehydration through diarrhea, weight loss and even death in severe cases. It’s not uncommon, but it’s also not something you want to leave untreated, and it is spread easily through fecal matter (you know, like the kind found in spaces shared amongst a litter – even at a responsible breeder).
When my puppy was diagnosed with Coccidia, I informed Gerber via email, and suggested he contact other buyers to let them know what they were dealing with (we were told, and believed, the diarrhea was due to dewormer, and then when it continued, we assumed it was the change in environment/food – a big mistake). Later, I found out that other buyers had also independently informed him of these issues, on the advice of their vets.
On the same day I reported the Coccidia, I also made a post in the Community section of the Country Air Sheepadoodle Facebook page. I deliberately chose to post there, even though it is somewhat buried, as I did not want to leave a negative review at the time (which would have been more prominent) – I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, before leaving a review.
This is how I got in touch with the guy I mentioned above, who had collected a puppy on August 28. This dog almost died of Parvo, was in intensive, round-the-clock veterinary care for almost a week, and was also diagnosed with Coccidia and Giardia. After hearing from this guy, the pattern was pretty obvious in that it came from Country Air.
Anyway, this post was removed from their Facebook page on September 11, 2021. Go and see for yourself, and while you’re looking for it, ask yourself what responsible breeder would be removing a post like this? What responsible breeder would not want the customers to know their puppy’s diarrhea is caused by Coccidia, and the puppy could die or suffer intestinal damage? Coccidia eats the intestinal lining, and Giardia also is damaging. They both need to be treated as early as possible.
Fact 3: Tejwant Chahal, A Known Puppy Mill Vet, Is The Country Air Sheepadoodles Vet
Tejwant Chahal, from Chahal Vetinary Services, is well known (e.g. here, here, here, here, Facebook, Google) to be a travelling Mennonite Puppy Mill vet. This is the same guy that has done vet checks and signed off on multiple sick dogs from Country Air Sheepadoodles in August and September alone (I have no information about whether he was the vet prior to August 2021 – if you do, leave a comment).
On September 8, I called Tejwant Chahal and he did not pick up, so I called Dixie Animal Hospital (the 905 number above), who claimed that his signature has been forged on fake vaccination records in the past, and they would confirm the signature on my Health Record – which they did confirm as his.
On September 9, I phoned him again, as I wanted to ask some questions about the wellness check, and also to see whether he had been back to Country Air since Aug 24 when I had reported the Coccidia – i.e. was he aware of it, and was it being treated? He hung up the phone on me and refused to answer that question.
You can listen to the recording below. Note how in the beginning, Chahal says he is familiar with Country Air Sheepadoodles, and answers some basic questions. Later in the call, he claims not to know who we are talking about, after I ask him whether he has been back after. When I ask him again, he then ends the call. Oh, but wait, that is not the first time he has hung up on someone either.
The moral of this story: ALWAYS DEMAND TO KNOW THE NAME OF THE VET IN ADVANCE. If it is Tejwant Chahal or Chahal Vetinary Services, run as fast as you can.
Fact 4: Country Air Sells Puppies On Kijiji Using The Alias “Jess”
Hang on, isn’t Kijiji the domain of puppy mills? Why would a responsible breeder be selling dogs on Kijiji using an alias, for a much lower price than directly through their own website? Sounds like puppy mill behaviour to me. Also refer to the Ontario Puppy Mill section below.
Here are two ads screen capped from Kijiji on September 11, 2021, where the Kijiji prices have suddenly decreased from $1800 (confirmed by multiple people I have spoken to) to $1250 in the ads. Is this a sign that Country Air is trying to offload sick dogs more quickly? Why would these prices suddenly decrease?
Also, note that both ads say “vet checked” – the key word being checked. Not sure Tejwant Chahal got that memo, according to our phone call above.
It turns out that “Jess” – unclear whether this is a real person or not – refers people directly to Gerber. This particular buyer, whose chat transcript you can read for yourself below, said she spoke to Gerber on the phone, and he confirmed his relationship to “Jess”.
So in conclusion, we have a direct link between Country Air Sheepadoodles and the volume Kijiji puppy mill business, where dogs are pumped out for prices far below the price from a reputable breeder.
Fact 5: Puppy Mills Are A Huge Problem In Ontario, And The Majority Are In The Mennonite & Amish Areas Where Country Air Is Located
Kimberly Thomas from Kismutt Rescue has been involved in rescuing dogs from Mennonite and Amish puppy mills in Western Ontario for many years, and I highly recommend you listen to the first episode of her podcast (below), where she goes into significant detail about her experience of rescuing “cull dogs” from puppy mills – and in so doing so, learned about their operations in great detail.
It is somewhat ironic, when asked where puppy mills are located, literally the first place of numerous townships she lists off (6:58 in the podcast) is Lucknow…home of Country Air Sheepadoodles! While this is definitely not conclusive of anything, and indeed excellent non-Mennonite Sheepadoodle breeder I Love my Sheepadoodle (Cranbrook Family Dogs) is located 10km away in Wingham (I speak from personal experience), it is interesting nonetheless.
Indeed, according to the Kismutt website, “there are over 100 Amish Puppy mills in Ontario that I know of personally…located in Milverton, Millbank, Linwood, Dorking, Elmira, Brunner, Wellesley, Topping, Moncton, St. Jacobs, Wallenstien, Springfield, Ostrander, Aylmer, Lucknow, St. Helens, Kincardine, Blythe, Mount Forest, Proton Station, Harriston, Tara, and Chesley”.
In the podcast, Kimberly Thomas discusses how Mennonite and Amish people treat the dogs like livestock, culling the female dogs that can’t produce any longer and mass producing dogs like cattle for profit – and goes on to state she estimates that 80% of puppy mills in Ontario are operated by Mennonite and Amish people. This information by itself is not conclusive of anything, but when taken in context of all the other facts presented here, and some other opinions below, it should certainly give you cause for concern.
I’m no expert on puppy mills, but I do know enough not to meet someone outside a Timmies after buying a dog on Kijiji. That said, what is also interesting in the podcast, is when Kimberly describes how some puppy mills have shiny websites and even invite you to go to their farm, where they will have the dogs out front on display. This is definitely in line with my experience – a shiny website and Facebook page, all good reviews, pups outside when you arrive with a dog that is supposed to be mom, no photos of the kennels, etc. The second group of puppy mills simply produce and sell to brokers, who sell on Kijiji, according to Kismutt.
I was diligent, but obviously not diligent enough in asking the right questions, and like some others I have seen and talked to, just chalked Gerber’s communication up to a simple lack of business-savvy and innocent awkwardness.
Other Suspicious Stuff
So we have been through and identified a number of irrefutable facts, which should give you great cause for concern. But wait, there’s more!
Let’s look at Diane Daniels Proper, associate of Gerber. I have talked with a few people who have mentioned her in various capacities, including Facebook Page operator, Website operator, Photographer, and Guardian parent to mothers/litters. She also appears to be a sales person for Gerber, frequently promoting Country Air on Facebook in the Canadian Sheepadoodles Group.
So what do we have below? First, here is Proper claiming 6 months ago that the buyer’s pup was the first Parvo litter, and the buyer refuting that information. Second here is someone else saying her 9mo puppy was sick and a Parvo litter existed around the same time – again calling into question the claim made by Proper. Perhaps it is true. One thing we do know for sure – there have now been other Parvo dogs this year, since these conversations approximately 6 months ago.
Third, and perhaps most interestingly, we have Proper using the phrase “we have” and referring to Gerber as “our team leader”. I’m sorry, what?? That is some mighty strange language. Isn’t he supposed to be a simple Mennonite farmer producing high quality Sheepadoodles in the beautiful country air? What is he the “team leader” of? Another Mennonite puppy mill? Hold that thought, and keep reading.
Update Sep 14: We have now confirmed a puppy that is currently more than 1 year old was collected with Giardia and Parvo in Summer 2020, half a year before the first Parvo litter claimed by Proper.
Update Sep 15: After the above Sep 14 update was shared in the Canadian Sheepadoodles Facebook Group, Diane Proper has now appeared to express her indignation and demand evidence of Parvo litters earlier that 6mo ago. We will not provide this evidence, as the person specifically did not wish to get involved, although as you can see, it has been verified.
Stories From Other People
Seems I am not the only one who is concerned. In the first conversation, and following on from the previous thread about a team, note the first buyer below reports dealing with another unknown couple during the middle of COVID. More team members?
Here are three other people: one public comment, and two private conversations.
I will be up front and say I eventually got 2/3 of my money back (the amount I asked for, as I’d paid him the “responsible breeder rate”), and others have also recevied money back. However, this was not without being quite persistent, and threatening Gerber with small claims court if he did not return my money (which I was fully prepared to do). I still paid him a significant amount, but hopefully the money I got back will cover vet bills associated with getting my innocent puppy well again, and we will have a long and happy life together. Will she have lasting health effects from multiple rounds of heavy antibiotics and intestinal parasites? Let’s hope not, as these things are all uninsurable pre-existing conditions. I decided to keep her, as I could never return her to Country Air, given all the facts uncovered via social media this past week.
I thought long and hard about publishing this post, but with the input of a few other people (special mention to Heather W. for your help), I decided to proceed as a warning to others. This post is not about ruining anyone’s business, but it definitely is about forcing responsible breeding practices and responsible veterinary care in Ontario, and shaming those who are irresponsible and who behave unethically. Gerber and Chahal – you have been called out. The facts are the facts, simple as that guys.
So far, I have raised all these points with Gerber by email, who did not respond to any of them: the other sicks dogs with parasites and Parvo, the Kijiji listing and price discrepancies, and the deleted Facebook post. His only response was to agree to return the part of my money I was asking for. Oh, and to offer me another free puppy, as he was very sorry this had happened.
I don’t know, I just don’t buy the remorse after I threaten someone with court and a public shaming, in order to get them to return emails and phone calls. Plus, actions speak louder than words. Why not act like a responsible breeder from the start: get on top of the problem, warn your customers, and deal quickly with a parasite outbreak when warned of one? Why not call in your vet immediately, to check and treat upcoming litters, so unsuspecting people are not sent home with sick dogs? If you’re a responsible breeder, this should be the only course of action imo, unless of course you consider puppies disposable livestock (listen to the Kismutt podcast above) and your clients an easy payday.
Update 14 Sep: I was contacted by a breeder, who confirmed exactly what I was thinking should be happening, her comments are reproduced below. I have redacted her name. Thank you for reaching out, much appreciated.
If you read this post, and you have a similar story to tell, then I strongly encourage you to speak out – leave a public review on Facebook or Google, leave a comment on this blog post, share your experience in the Canadian Sheepadoodles Group, or send me an email and I will publish you story anonymously. One of the main reasons I – and other reasonably diligent people I’ve spoken to – ended up in this situation is because there are not any obvious public comments. Everything up until this point posted about Country Air Sheepadoodles is positive, save a few concerned sounding comments buried in a Facebook group. Yes, Country Air is cleansing their Facebook page of anything that makes them look bad, but they can’t cleanse the whole internet.
Do the responsible thing, and share your honest story.