Steve Kruse and the Cursed Property

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Editor’s Note: All of the information found in the article below was obtained through public records requests from the USDA, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and other publicly available information. 

©Bailing Out Benji 2024

All work was done by the research team at Bailing Out Benji and must be cited as such when shared or quoted.

To view the rest of our research, click here

Background: Last week we shared with you an investigation we did into Steve Kruse of Stonehenge Kennels. We reported that Kruse would transfer his pregnant dogs to USDA licensee Brian Lichirie so Brian could whelp the puppies and sell them to stores and brokers, all while keeping Kruse’s name off of the records as the official breeder. You can read that report here

We also introduced you to the problematic USDA licensee Wuanita Swedlund, who operates a facility in Cantril, Iowa underneath Steve Kruse’s license. After being USDA licensed for only 5 months, Swedlund received 1 direct violation, 1 critical violation, and 15 non-critical violations. These 2023 violations resulted in an official warning from the USDA, but no suspension. As of February 2024, Swedlund was told by the Iowa Department of Agriculture that she “was not to exceed more than 30 adult dogs in the facility until the facility maintains compliance for a minimum period of one year.” 


Kruse's Cantril location, based on the Van Buren County Assessor page

What is most interesting to note, is the sheer number of problematic licensees that have been attached to this specific address in Cantril. There appears to be a revolving door of managers operating this facility, seemingly alongside Steve Kruse in some fashion.

The Cursed Property- Cantril, Iowa 

Bailing Out Benji first became aware of the Cantril, Iowa location during the Daniel Gingerich puppy mill case in 2021. Daniel Gingerich, owner of Maple Hill Puppies, is the worst USDA licensed puppy mill in history. With hundreds of dogs across multiple properties, Gingerich racked up more than 220 USDA violations before being shut down by the Department of Justice. While that was ongoing, Bailing Out Benji kept pressure on the Wayne County Sheriff’s department until they began their own investigation into this case and ultimately pressed charges. Daniel Gingerich faced two counts of animal neglect with serious injury or death, an aggravated misdemeanor. He also faced four counts of animal neglect with injury, a serious misdemeanor. 

Daniel Gingerich ended up pleading guilty to two counts, one of animal neglect with serious injury or death and one of animal neglect with serious injury. Gingerich only had to spend 30 days in jail and he was able to choose which state (Iowa or Ohio, where he later moved) and didn’t have to serve the 30 days in one visit: he could serve a few days at a time. Gingerich was also sentenced to two years probation and had to pay probation fees of $300.

During the Federal trial, Gingerich admitted to the judge that he owed Steve Kruse $600,000. The documents that were later released showed that Gingerich was also leasing that land from Kruse. Below is an excerpt from Inspector Kelly Maxwell’s deposition in the case against Daniel Gingerich.

The remaining dogs on Daniel Gingerich’s property were seized by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa in October of 2021 and ultimately found their forever homes. Prior to that, Gingerich auctioned dogs off at Southwest Auction Service in Missouri and he also transferred 200 dogs back to Steve Kruse. Unfortunately, Steve Kruse euthanized 199 of those dogs in one day citing that they were ‘incurable’. 

But less than two months after the final raid on Gingerich, there was already a new licensee on that same property. At the time of their very first pre-license inspection they already had over 300 dogs and puppies. Woody Wiley (42-A-1676) oversaw this property for less than 6 months before he received 1 direct violation, 4 non-critical, an official USDA warning and then ultimately canceled his license. 

While no one else would hold their own license in Cantril for another year after Wiley canceled his own, Steve Kruse saw a spike in violations at his West Point facility from 2022 to 2023. 5 direct and 11 non-critical USDA violations were documented against Kruse in a one year period. As we mentioned in the first part of this saga, “Don’t be pacified by that seemingly low number though. Under a majority of these violations, more than one dog was affected. In fact, sometimes a dozen or more dogs are listed underneath a violation that only counts as one strike against Steve Kruse.” Kruse, like the managers of the Cantril property in the past, struggled with providing adequate veterinary care and properly documenting the animals that were coming and going. 

Once Wuanita Swedlund obtained her USDA license for the Cantril property, Steve Kruse’s violations began to stop and Swedlund’s pre-license inspection was clean, although it immediately showed 227 dogs and puppies were on the property. Within 6 months the violations would begin. While Swedlund still holds the active license for this property, we wonder how long it will be until it turns over to a new licensee. 


According to the Van Buren County Assessor’s page, Steve Kruse purchased this property in 1993 and has retained ownership since.

Even though this property and the active licensees keep getting horrendous violations, Steve Kruse is able to absolve himself from scrutiny. Daniel Gingerich was leasing Kruse’s property and had 600 of Kruse’s dogs, but Gingerich was the only person that was investigated by the USDA, the DOJ and the sheriff for the crimes that happened.

Who’s dogs are they really? 

The puppy mill industry is extremely complex, mainly because it thrives in secrecy. The less the public knows, the better. What we are learning though is that dogs are being traded amongst breeders to settle debts and to be used as business transactions. The dogs are actually being used as currency in this world. A currency that isn’t always taxable and definitely isn’t always traceable.

Below is an excerpt from a USDA investigation that was done into Steve Kruse and his suspension in 2023. The statement comes from Bob Hughes, owner of Southwest Auction Services, who was giving his version of events regarding dogs being sold at an April 2023 dog auction.

Dakota Moeller, who was set to receive money from the sale of dogs, is another USDA licensee (42-B-0293) and is an employee of Steve Kruse. At the time of his last USDA inspection, Moeller had 144 adult breeding dogs and, just like Kruse, has had zero puppies documented on inspection reports as far back as we can see (2016). Are those puppies being born elsewhere too? Is their breeder being erased in order to add one more layer of secrecy for the consumer? 

And, also much like Kruse, we never see Moeller’s name show up on sale or health records going to pet stores or other businesses. Until we found his CVIs of dogs going to the auction house. 

According to the Animal Welfare Act’s “Identification and Recordkeeping Requirements for Dogs and Cats” breeders and brokers are “required to identify and keep records of all dogs and cats in your possession” and they also need to use specific forms to track animals that arrive and depart the facility, unless they have received permission to use a computerized tracking system. In our next article, we will be diving into the very lax way of record-keeping amongst these key-players and how their disorganization can lead to confusion and violations. 

In our next part of this on-going saga, we will share with you more about the chaotic process of tracking the movement of these dogs when the businesses involved aren’t keeping correct and current information. 

At the time of this article, Steve Kruse still holds an active USDA  license and is still registered as a federal dealer with the Iowa Department of Agriculture. There will be additional information released soon, as we finish up the complaint filing process into evidence we have found but have not yet reported. Sign up for email alerts here.

If you have questions or you are a customer that purchased a puppy from Steve Kruse, Brian Lichirie, Wuanita Swedlund, Dakota Moeller or any of their associated businesses, please contact us using the form below.