Alleged Dog Theft and Abuse Operation is Shut Down - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Alleged Dog Theft and Abuse Operation is Shut Down

Alleged Dog Theft and Abuse Operation is Shut Down
By: Amy Jacquin

Here's a follow-up to a huge animal abuse investigation going on for the last 15 years... one with strong ties to Southeast Missouri.

We told you about allegations against a man named Chester "C.C." Baird, who regularly bought dogs at the Friday morning flea market in Poplar Bluff. Baird is licensed as a Class B dealer, meaning he can raise dogs and sell them to research laboratories, or buy dogs from owners who don't care if their dogs are used for research.

Baird lives in Sharp County in Northern Arkansas, and routinely traveled to flea markets in surrounding states.

Investigators believed Baird encouraged people to steal dogs, and knowingly accepted false information when buying them. That illegal practice is known as "bunching."

The number of lost reports indicates Missouri has a problem with dog thefts, earning it the nickname among animal activists "The Steal-Me State."

Bit C.C. Baird hasn't set-up shop in Poplar Bluff for about a year now, ever since he was busted and charged with multiple civil counts. We've learned about a settlement in that civil case. And that settlement has dog lover's in the Heartland celebrating.

More than 70 hours of undercover video detail overwhelming amounts of cruelty at Martin Creek Kennels in Arkansas. Investigators with the group "Last Chance For Animals" secretly shot the tape over several years... capturing abuse, neglect, and filthy living conditions... as well as dogs being shot to death.

"Tens of thousands of dogs, maybe hundreds of thousands, have gone through Martin Creek Kennels, suffered horribly, and died," says Chris DeRose, president of LCA, the organization spearheading the investigation. He says they started their investigation years ago in Missouri and Arkansas because "of the rash of pet thefts going on in this region."

The strong video evidence is part of the reason the United States Department of Agriculture charged C.C. Baird and several family members with hundreds of violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The USDA is in charge of inspecting licensed dealers, like Baird's "Martin Creek Kennels," and his wife Patsy's "Pat's Pine Tree Farms."

The video also includes an undercover conversation with a "buncher" female, who says local police and inspectors were successfully paid to look the other way.

When the charges were first leveled, the USDA seized 125 dogs and one cat from the Bairds' kennels. Agents described those animals as being in the worst shape and in need of immediate health care. They were all subsequently adopted. But 600 more remained in Baird's possession. However, that will soon change!

The Baird's agreed to settle the USDA civil lawsuit, finalized last Friday. The settlement means they lose their licenses permanently... C-C, his wife Patsy, and daughters Patricia and Jeanette. They must pay the largest fine ever ordered by the USDA... $262,700. They're under probation for the next five years, including an automatic penalty of a quarter-million dollars if caught in engaging in any unlicensed activity.

"The largest pet theft operation in the United States is out of business," adds DeRose.

The government is confiscating the remaining hundreds of dogs and cats still left at Bairds' kennels. The adoptions are being handled by Northeastern Arkansas for Animals. That group will coordinate the dissemination of dogs to various other shelters and adoption groups throughout the country.

The Bairds have a long history of violations, fines, and repeat offenses with the USDA. But this settlement pushes him out of the research animal business. It provides new hope the often ill, malnourished and roughly- treated animals will be shown gentleness and love in the future.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Little Rock says criminal charges may still be filed. They must finish sorting through tons of evidence before deciding what, if any, C.C. Baird and his family may face.

The Last Chance for Animals website has much more information on the investigation and steps along with way. They also publish a list of some accused "bunchers," people who regularly sold animals to Baird. It doesn't list their residences, so we don't know if any operated in Southeast Missouri or Southern Illinois. Check it out for yourself by going to www.lastchanceforanimals.org and clicking on the investigations link. Once you click on the update for C.C. Baird, scroll down to the news updates section and click on the headline saying "C.C. Baird Violations Synopsis."

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