MU cuts ties with supplier

The kennel’s owners have pleaded guilty in mail-fraud scheme.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:11 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

An Arkansas couple charged this year with selling stolen animals to MU and other Missouri research institutions will forfeit $200,000, their home and their former kennels after entering guilty pleas on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, Ark.

Chester Clinton “C.C.” Baird Jr. and Patsy M. Baird, animal suppliers from Williford, Ark., will also pay about $42,400 for investigative costs, the U.S. Department of Justice said. The money will be used to help reimburse animal-rescue groups that took custody of the animals seized on the Bairds’ property two years ago.

The couple was involved in a mail-fraud scheme in which C.C. Baird, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture Class B animal dealer, falsified acquisition records in order to sell the animals to research facilities, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a release.

C.C. Baird pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money, and Patsy Baird pleaded guilty to aiding mail fraud.

Their property forfeiture — about 700 acres in Sharp County, Ark., that includes Martin Creek Kennel and Pat’s Pine Tree Farm — is worth about $1.1 million, the Justice Department said.

The federal felony convictions come six months after C.C. Baird’s license to supply animals was revoked by the USDA in response to violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The Bairds’ violations of the act included selling stolen animals, animal abuse and neglect.

Christian Basi, an MU spokesman, said the university ended its relationship with Martin Creek Kennel this year following the federal investigation of the business.

“We had been aware of the allegations against Martin Creek Kennel, but we were awaiting the outcome of the investigation process before making a decision,” he said.

In 1966, the Animal Welfare Act was enacted and, since then, has been amended four times — in 1970, 1976, 1985 and 1990. The law requires proper “licensing and inspection of dog and cat dealers, and humane handling at auction sales,” according to a USDA Web site.

The law also sets “minimum standards of care and housing at dealers’ premises, research labs and exhibitions,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C. The group was founded in 1951 to protect animals and seeks to improve the treatment of animals through legislation.

“Our objective is to bring an end to the supply of randomly acquired dogs and cats to laboratories for experimentation,” Liss said.

The Justice Department said that an Aug. 26, 2003, search warrant allowed for the removal of 125 dogs and one cat from the Bairds’ kennels and residence in Williford. The animals were relocated to the Swine Barn at the Arkansas State Fair and were later adopted with the help of animal rescue organizations.

Liss said the Bairds exemplify what’s wrong with random source dealers.

“A lot of money can be made and fairly easily with little chance of being caught,” she said.

Basi said MU checks for signs of abuse or neglect when its facilities obtain animals for any type of research. Animal officials certify the animals and check for signs of disease, he said.

Additionally, veterinarians look for implanted microchips and tattoos, which pet owners often use to identify their pets. A spayed or neutered pet also can indicate prior ownership, Basi said.

“Our vets can tell by the social behavior of the animal,” he said.

If abuse or prior ownership is suspected, the animal is turned down for research and the USDA is notified, Basi said.

Basi said the university often gets notifications of wrongdoing, because the Agriculture Department must investigate all complaints.

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