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.
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
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.