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Pet Theft Thugs: They're real. They're nearby.
Battered animals.

By Brenda Shoss, 3/24/05

Pet Theft Thugs: They’re real. They’re nearby.
His muddy ID tag recalled another place: A home defined in sloppy kisses, tail-wagging reunions, and a worn spot at the end of the couch. But a bullet to the head erased that life.

The dog lay among the carcasses uncovered in an August 2003 raid of Class B dealer C.C. Baird’s Martin Creek Kennels in Williford, Ark. Federal inspectors found 750 survivors amid cement dog pens caked in feces, urine and rotting food. Many had puncture wounds and lacerations. At the end of a six-day criminal inquest involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture and five other government agencies, authorities confiscated 125 ailing dogs and a lone cat.

C.C. Baird was a Church of Christ Minister and the country’s most prolific trafficker in random-source animals. The Arkansas operator, with commerce across southern Missouri, paid “bunchers” $5 to $30 for animals obtained from unknown sources. Baird annually resold about 3,000 dogs to academic departments in Missouri, Illinois, California, Florida, and nearly 46 other animal-testing labs nationwide. Dogs went for $150-$700 a head. Cats netted $50-$200 a piece.

It was impossible to trace the roots of tens of thousands of animals lost in Baird’s 16-year trail of counterfeit health certificates and muddled records. In a 108-page complaint filed seven months after the raid, the USDA charged Baird, wife Patsy, and daughters Jeanette and Patricia with over 1,000 violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

In 1995 Baird landed a $9,250 federal fine but kept his license. This time he settled with the USDA for an unprecedented $262,700 fine and the permanent loss of the family’s four breeder/dealer licenses. At the conclusion of the January 2005 civil case, the U.S. Attorney’s criminal indictment of Baird was still pending.

The seizure of the Baird farms marks the fall of a pet-theft dynasty. Yet roughly 1,100 Baird-type dealers remain USDA-licensed to amass dogs and cats from “random sources,” a term legalized in 1966. Over the last 30 years, tax-subsidized interstate traffic in stolen animals has flourished.

The Animal, Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) arm of the USDA regulates animal dealers. This financially strapped agency employs a relative handful of inspectors to monitor thousands of Class A licensees (breeders), Class B licensees (brokers), Class C licensees (exhibitors), handlers, and biomedical researchers.

That leaves brokers like Baird free to sell animals of suspect origin to researchers, illegal dogfighters, breeders, and the meat and fur trades. Class A dealers, who mass-produce animals at “puppy mills,” also function with minimal oversight. Anyone with $10 can pick up a USDA animal dealer license.

The Pet Protection Act of 1990 orders Class B dealers to maintain verifiable records on the acquisition or disposition of their animals. Still, more than half of USDA-examined records are incomplete or fraudulent. A dealer is only deemed in “violation” of the Animal Welfare Act after multiple citations for noncompliant items (NCIs). In most cases, the dealer incurs a slap-on-the-wrist fine that lets the business of stealing pets proceed unencumbered.

An estimated 1.5 to 2 million companion animals are forcibly taken every year, according to Last Chance for Animals (LCA), a national group responsible for sending three B dealers to prison. LCA’s investigations have revealed live dogs caged alongside battered, choked or shot corpses. Dogs were videotaped with tumors, mange, parasites, parvovirus, distemper, and rectal bleeding. At one dealer’s site, decomposing dogs were tossed into an open dirt grave.

How do Fluffy or Fido wind up in this sell-for-research abyss? The chain often begins with bunchers, unlicensed thugs known to have abducted dogs at gunpoint. When bunchers spot unattended animals in cars, yards, or the streets, they see moneymakers. Bunchers also answer “Free to a Good Home” ads with phony promises about loving guardianship.

Some bunchers sell animals directly to research institutions, but most peruse buncher-dealer swaps. In Missouri, the leading pet-theft state, dealers can shop animal auctions and flea markets on a weekly or monthly basis, claims People for Animal Rights (PAR), a Kansas City based organization that tracks the rural animal market.

Once the middleman purchases Fido, he is transferred to a holding camp to await sale to the final user. Dealers tether dogs to stakes or stuff them into small wire crates. Old appliances even become makeshift cages, PAR reports, in these “animal concentration camps.” To cut costs, the dogs feed on intermittent scraps and rancid water. Many do not survive.

Class B dealers derive most of their income from contracts with research labs. Experimenters favor people-friendly subjects and may request beagles or other submissive breeds.

The research industry is not required to patrol animal dealers. USDA/APHIS is. But the agency is stymied by budget cuts and red tape. The bulk of cats and dogs in labs come from breeders, pounds, bunchers and dealers who are seldom investigated.

Behind the locked doors of a biocontainment lab, a once cherished pet undergoes invasive surgeries, toxic dosing, food/water deprivation, and other testing protocol. Vivisectors cannot visibly differentiate between legally acquired animals and those procured through theft or fraud. Dealers usually transport animals to research centers hundreds of miles from where they were taken. For Fido and Fluffy, animal-testing labs are the end of the line.

Until laws enacted to dissuade pet theft are wholly enforced, C.C. Baird and his ilk will continue to inflict untold pain upon animals and the people who love them.

Dogs for sale.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
Request sample letters asking USDA/APHIS Animal Care to enforce AWA regulations, investigate and prosecute violators, and terminate Class B licenses: info@kinshipcircle.org

KEEP YOUR COMPANION ANIMAL SAFE!
SOURCE: Last Chance For Animals (LCA) www.StolenPets.com/

— Keep your companion animal indoors, especially when not at home. Do not leave animals unattended in your yard; it only takes a minute for thieves to steal your companion animal.

— Do not let your companion animal roam free in the neighborhood.

— Remember that indoor cats live longer, safer lives.

— Keep companion animals safely inside your home when you are expecting repair personnel, meter readers, or guests.

— Properly identify companion animals with a collar and tag as well as a microchip and/or tattoo.

— Know where your companion animal is at all times.

— Maintain up-to-date licenses on your companion animal.

— Keep recent photos and written descriptions of your companion animal on hand at all times.

— Spay and neuter your companion animal. Fixed animals are less likely to stray from home.

— Be aware of strangers in the neighborhood. Report anything unusual such as suspicious neighborhood activities or missing pets to the police and animal control.

— Padlock your gate; dogs left outdoors alone should be kept safely behind a locked gate.

— Make sure that your animal is not visible from the street.

— Keep your companion animal on a leash whenever you go outside.

— Do not tie your companion animal up outside a store to wait for you.

— NEVER LEAVE AN ANIMAL UNATTENDED IN A CAR.

IF YOUR COMPANION ANIMAL IS STOLEN:
SOURCE: Animal Issues Movement, Los Angeles
www.animalissues.org/issues/pet-theft.php

1. IMMEDIATELY file a report with local police or sheriff.

2. Immediately make a flyer and circulate it in the area where the pet disappeared. (Include color, gender, size, breed, whether spayed/neutered, street location from which pet disappeared, a 24-hour phone/message number, any reward offered for return.)

3. Immediately visit all surrounding shelters to search for your pet.

4. Post the flyer in each shelter and return every two days to look for your pet an assure the flyer has not been removed.

5. Post the flyer in veterinary offices, pet supply stores, at and near dog parks, fax it to groomers, pet sitters, breeders (if purebred animal), trainers, etc.

6. Post the flyer in any local business that will display it.

7. Run "lost" ads in as many local/citywide newspapers as possible. Contact TV/radio stations.

8. Check all "found" ads in newspapers daily.

9. Monitor "pets for sale" and "pet adoption" ads daily in newspapers, Internet sites.

10. Walk around the area where your pet disappeared, calling her name, especially in the evening when traffic noises subside. (If someone has your pet inside, he/she may hear your voice and bark or try to get to you.)

11. Contact all local animal rescue and/or "breed rescue" groups and send them a flyer. Use shelter lists, the Internet and adoption columns in newspaper to locate them.

12. Search the Internet under "lost/stolen pets" for helpful information.

13. Do NOT send or give money to anyone who says they will get your dog back. (a common scam is asking for money to transport your pet back from another state.)

14. Before paying a pet-finding service, assure they will circulate flyers and pictures of your pet, determine how large an area will be covered, and ask for references from former customers.

15. Do not take cash to a remote location to meet someone who claims to have your pet. (Contact your local police or law enforcement agency and ask them what to do if you receive a call to recover your dog and pay a promised reward.) Do NOT disclose your home address or other personal information to callers.

16. If you think you have located your stolen pet, do not approach the person who has him/her without first asking an animal control/law enforcement officer to accompany you. (Once you have made contact, your pet may be quickly removed from the location and hidden.)

17. Don't give up on finding your pet!!! If he/she was given or sold to a new home, he/she may later escape or be abandoned, and end up in a shelter weeks later. Also, your pet may have been purchased or found by a caring person who will return him/her.

PHOTOS:
LCA acquired over 72 hours of video surveillance at C.C. Baird's Williford, Ark. facility which subsequently led to the USDA charging Baird with hundreds of violations of the Animal Welfare Act: http://www.lcanimal.org/invest/baird.htm

1. An injection of a swine antibiotic was the only attempt by kennel workers to treat the infected bite wounds on this dog's head. The dog eventually died.

2. This dog's bloody nasal discharge was left untreated. He was later found dead.

3. USDA/APHIS Animal Care, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/bairdnew/ccbaird.html C.C. Baird Dog Pictures: 89 dogs the C.C. Baird (Martin Creek Kennels) turned over to the USDA. Questions or comments, call 970-494-7478, or email: ace@aphis.usda.gov

4. Inadequate veterinary care led to this dog's death.

5. C.C. Baird, LCA investigation, http://www.lcanimal.org/invest/baird.htm

6. USDA confiscated dog from C.C. Baird’s Martin Creek Kennels (see #3).

7. An emaciated dog neglected by kennel workers.

8. This cat suffered from encrusted eye discharge and was extremely lethargic.

9. This dog was attacked by other dogs. Untreated wounds became swollen and infected.

10. Dogs were dumped into a tank of water containing three one-quart bottles of Permethrin, a chemical to kill and prevent fleas and ticks. The insecticide covered every inch of dogs dumped into the tank, including their eyes and open wounds. Smaller dogs were hoisted up by their necks... This procedure was done in temperatures so cold, the dogs would go into shock before being dragged by their necks back to their pens.

11. USDA/APHIS Animal Care/C.C. Baird Dog Pictures, Martin Creek Kennels (see #3).

12. USDA/APHIS Animal Care/C.C. Baird Dog Pictures, Martin Creek Kennels (see #3).

13. USDA/APHIS Animal Care/C.C. Baird Dog Pictures, Martin Creek Kennels (see #3).

14. USDA/APHIS Animal Care/C.C. Baird Dog Pictures, Martin Creek Kennels (see #3).


To reprint this article in your publication, web site or list, please request author permission: info@kinshipcircle.org

Kinship Circle’s column runs bimonthly in The Healthy Planet. Ms. Shoss is also a contributing writer for The Animals Voice, Satya Magazine, VegNews, and other publications. If you would like to reprint this column, please request author permission at info@kinshipcircle.org

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