The female tri-colored beagle had no name but she bore the tag number 37984. A pair of lacerations crossed her right hip, an inch long, the other an inch and a half. On her left hip was another laceration, along with a puncture wound. An area of painful swelling extended from her right hip to her rib cage. Another area of painful swelling on her right shoulder ruptured at the touch of an examiner and emitted a stream of yellow-green pus.
Failure to provide proper veterinary care for dog number 37984 is one of more than 1,000 violations of the Animal Welfare Act allegedly committed by Chester C. (C.C.) Baird, his wife and two daughters through their Williford businesses, Martin Creek Kennels and Pat's Pine Tree Farms. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) filed the 108-page complaint March 11 before the United States Department of Agriculture.
Named as respondents in the complaint are C.C. Baird, his wife, Patsy Baird, and their two daughters, Jeanette Baird and Patricia Baird.
APHIS cites examples of animal dehydration, malnutrition, infections, injuries and abrasions, swelling, inflamed skin, lameness, lethargy, mange, flea infestations and other conditions, and accuses the Bairds of failing to provide proper veterinary care for the animals' conditions.
The Bairds, who hold a class B (random source animal dealer) license, have made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling dogs and cats to research facilities. But they face more than $1 million in fines for the alleged violations.
"This is a really significant case," said Darby G. Holladay, an APHIS spokesman in Riverdale, Md., who said this is the largest animal abuse and neglect case he has ever heard of.
Holladay said the complaint was filed based on random inspections conducted by the USDA between 1998 and 2003. But the beagle tagged 37984 was examined Aug. 26, 2003, the day 27 federal agents staged a dawn raid on Martin Creek Kennels and the home of C.C. and Patsy Baird. Dozens of the alleged violations were recorded after examination of animals at the kennel the day of the raid and the days immediately following.
Agents also seized approximately 100 of the 700 dogs at the kennel the day of the raid. The seized animals were transported to Little Rock where the USDA attempted to return them to owners from which they were allegedly stolen. Most of the seized animals were beagles, hounds or Labrador retrievers.
The U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of Arkansas had still not filed criminal charges in the case as of April 30.
Since the filing of the APHIS complaint, the Bairds have not returned phone calls to the newspaper. C.C. Baird also refused to talk to the newspaper at the time of the raid but issued the brief statement, "I've been in business a long time and I've done absolutely nothing wrong."
The APHIS complaint accuses the Bairds of "severe mistreatment and neglect of a multitude of animals ... falsification of health certificates for dogs and cats ... multitudinous record-keeping deficiencies and instances of noncompliance with the barest of standards of care, husbandry and housing for dogs and cats."
Holladay said the Bairds paid a veterinarian to supply them with blank, signed but undated health certificates which they filled out with false information and used in connection with the sale of the animals to research facilities. Holladay said he does not know the identity of the veterinarian, but the U.S. attorney will determine whether to file criminal charges against the veterinarian.
Research facilities which purchased animals from Martin Creek Kennels include the University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas Medical Center, University of Missouri, University of Mississippi, Colorado State University and the University of Wisconsin, according to the Animal Welfare Institute of Washington, D.C.
The Los Angeles-based animal rights organization Last Chance for Animals (LCA) took credit for instigating the Aug. 26, 2003, raid. LCA called the Bairds' operation the largest pet theft ring in the United States.
On the LCA Web site, the organization's founder and president, actor Chris DeRose, said the group's Special Investigation Unit "discovered overwhelming amounts of abuse, neglect and unsanitary conditions, as well as dogs being shot to death on the property." LCA said it turned over its evidence to federal authorities. The U.S. Attorney's Office, USDA, the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service, Arkansas State Police and Sharp County Sheriff's Office, conducted the August raid.
DeRose writes on the LCA Web site: "(T)his is the beginning of the end for C.C. Baird. This is the result of 15 years of investigation. ... Last Chance for Animals has vowed that these Class B Dealers will no longer exist to terrorize American families in having their beloved family member stolen."
LCA opposes the use of animals for scientific "curiosity," entertainment, clothing and food.
Although dozens of the specific examples of animal abuse and neglect were found following the August raid, APHIS said their investigation was independent of the LCA.
"They would not have an impact on the investigation," Holladay said.
A yet-unscheduled preliminary administrative law hearing will give the Bairds an opportunity to enter their pleas, Holladay said. The case will then go to an administrative law judge for adjudication. The USDA general counsel will serve as the prosecution, Holladay said.
The complaint states that Baird "has a history of previous violations of the (Animal Welfare) Act and the Regulations. Many of (the) regulations that Mr. Baird and the other respondents are alleged to have violated in the instant case are the identical regulations that Mr. Baird was previously found to have violated."
Baird was fined $5,000 in 1997 for failure to verify the information given to him by suppliers.
The complaint also states: "Respondents have made a great deal of money from their large-scale sales of dogs and cats to research facilities. They have derived their substantial income through illegal means.
On their annual license renewal application in 2003 the Bairds reported they grossed $292,031 for the sale of 1,703 animals in 2002, according to the complaint. In earlier applications they reported selling 3,000 animals in 2000, 2,450 animals in 2001. They reported their gross earnings as "100,001+" in each of the earlier two years.