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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Bairds sentenced

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Home detention, fines and probation imposed on owners of Martin Creek Kennels

A former Williford kennel owner will be staying at home for the next six months as part of his punishment for using false records to sell animals to research facilities.

Federal Judge J. Leon Holmes sentenced Chester Clinton Baird Jr. to three years probation, which includes the six-month home detention, July 14 at the federal courthouse in Little Rock. Baird, 59, was also ordered to pay a $7,500 fine.

Baird's wife, Patsy, also 59, was sentenced to two years probation and fined $2,500.

The Bairds were convicted of mail fraud and money laundering while operating their businesses, Martin Creek Kennels and Pat's Pine Tree Farms in rural Williford.

The Bairds would often purchase the animals from bunchers, who allegedly steal pets from neighborhoods, at flea markets. As USDA licensed class B dealers, the Bairds were required to provide documentation for each animal sold to research laboratories. They would often falsify the records, violating the Animal Welfare Act.

Baird sold approximately 3,500 dogs a year to more than 50 laboratories in the country and abroad, according to the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C. He was one of the largest of the 27 random source animal dealers in the country. His clients included the University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas Medical Center, University of Missouri, University of Mississippi, Colorado State University and the University of Wisconsin, the institute said.

The couple closed their businesses last year. In August 2005 Baird pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money. Patsy Baird pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

As part of their plea agreement the Bairds forfeited $200,000 and approximately 700 acres valued at $1.1 million. The land included their home and former kennel facilities. They also agreed to pay $42,400 to reimburse animal rescue groups who took custody of animals seized from the Baird's property after an August 2003 raid. The couple has since moved out of state.

In January, 2005, a settlement was reached in Baird's civil case. The USDA permanently revoked Baird's licenses and fined him $262,700, the largest fine ever imposed by the USDA.

A team of 27 federal agents raided the Bairds' kennel on Aug. 26, 2003. Approximately 700 dogs were at the farm the day of the raid and approximately 125, mostly hounds, beagles and Lab mixes, and one cat were seized and taken to Little Rock where they were dispersed to rescue organizations.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service filed a 108-page complaint in March 2004 before the United States Department of Agriculture against the Bairds for mistreating the animals and not providing proper care.

The complaint said the animals suffered from dehydration, malnutrition, infections, lacerations, puncture wounds, abrasions, swelling, lameness, lethargy, conjunctivitis, mange and flea infestations.

Chris DeRose, founder of Los Angeles-based animal rights groups Last Chance for Animals, said Baird's demise comes as a result of his organization's 15-year investigation of Martin Creek Kennels. The organization went undercover and acquired more than 70 hours of video surveillance footage from Baird's facility, which included footage of dogs shot to death.

The footage was handed over to federal authorities which prompted the raid. Part of the footage was made into a film entitled Dealing Dogs aired on HBO in February of this year.

Baird had been convicted of violating the Animal Welfare Act in 1997 and was fined $5,000. In that case Judge James Hunt ruled that the Bairds failed to verify information given to them by their suppliers and failed to maintain their records fully and correctly.

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