A Glimpse Behind the Kennel Door

A Glimpse Behind the Kennel DoorA complaint alleging hundreds of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act by licensed Class B dealer C.C. Baird and his wife, operators of Martin Creek Kennels, provides a horrifying look inside a random source dealer's operation. Following are a summary of and quotations (emphasis theirs) from the 108-page document filed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on March 11, 2004.

"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. Their violations alleged herein strike at the very heart of the Animal Welfare Act and are directly contrary to the three congressional purposes that prompted its enactment nearly forty years ago" to insure that animals intended for use in research are provided humane care and treatment, to assure the humane treatment of animals during transportation, and to prevent the sale or use of animals who have been stolen.

One hundred and twenty five dogs and 1 cat were seized from C.C. Baird and placed with rescue groups in seven states. Some have rebounded from their ordeal very quickly, while others are still terrified of men, being touched, loud noises, sudden movements and even flashlights. Pictured above are at top left, Gromit (photo by Reid Ashton); Max, Paulie, and Maggie; and at top right Chase with his cat companion-all enjoying their new homes and lots of love. Maggie who is sitting with her "dad," was adopted by a USDA inspector who stated, "I found this [to be] one of the more rewarding things I have done in the 14 years I have been with Animal Care, and Maggie serves as a daily reminder to me that 'we' can make a difference for some!"

Baird and his wife "treated hundreds of animals cruelly and inhumanely, in myriad ways, including failing to provide them with the most basic needs: sufficient and nutritive food, potable water, safe shelter and adequate veterinary care." The Bairds "continued to acquire large numbers of random-source animals, and to keep scant or no records, while paying lip service to their adherence to the law."

Baird made a formal arrangement with his part-time veterinarian "that specifically excluded a written program of veterinary care and regularly scheduled visits to respondents' premises" and the veterinarian "merely performed 'walk-through observations' and performed no regularly-scheduled examinations of animals, and provided no regularly scheduled care to animals." Dogs were suffering malnutrition, dehydration, lameness, conjunctivitis, infections, and lacerations; many fresh puncture wounds and cuts appeared to be the result of fights with other animals and one dog lost part of her ear to an aggressive dog in her pen. One beagle had 3 lacerations, a puncture wound, and "an area of painful swelling...that ruptured upon moderate palpation, emitting a pale yellow-green purulent exudate." A hound suffered from a host of ills including "a possible femoral head fracture."

The Bairds paid a veterinarian $5 apiece to sign blank copies of official health certificates for dogs and cats. The Bairds completed hundreds of these documents using false information before transporting animals to research laboratories. During the summer, Baird subjected dogs inside his kennel to intense heat and humidity. In late August 2003, the temperature inside the dog building was recorded at 97.2 degrees Fahrenheit, and that night the temperature dropped to a mere 84 degrees. Even dogs in outdoor runs during extreme heat exhibited "signs of stress and discomfort."

Baird's employees "failed to conduct even minimal cleaning of respondents' facility and animals, failed to comprehend basic animal husbandry requirements, and failed to provide food and water to animals." Failure to clean pens often enough resulted in dogs being prevented "from walking without stepping in urine, feces and food debris." During the cleaning of their enclosures, dogs in the main compound were sprayed with a combination of water, urine, feces and food refuse by employees.

There was an infestation of rats, mice, and roaches. "USDA personnel observed, upon turning on the lights in the main kennel room during night rounds at 1:30 a.m., among the dozens of live rats and mice in all areas of the room, one rat that had become stuck in the wall, and was killed and eaten on the spot" by a dog in the pen, and "USDA personnel observed no fewer than twenty rat burrows in the main dog compound." There were "swarms of flies in the animal enclosures...and food infested with insect larvae."

Dog and cat enclosures were in poor condition with protruding wires, chipping paint, and excessively rusted surfaces. Urine was soaking into wood floors and algae and moss were growing on wooden posts. Some areas were rusted through leaving holes in the floor. Poor cage design led a number of animals to catch a paw and become lame. A hole between adjoining dog pens was large enough for a small dog to enter the adjoining enclosure where he was injured by a larger aggressive dog. There was a strong ammonia smell from a lack of sufficient ventilation in two of the cat rooms. The "...'puppy barn' facility had extremely poor lighting insufficient to permit inspections, leaving all of the enclosures dark to the extent that thirty animals could not be seen without opening the cages and shining a flashlight into the enclosures."

Water for the animals "was murky and contained dead flies and heavy green algae" and most water and food receptacles for cats were contaminated by kitty litter. The food receptacles in the dog runs had an accumulation of brown, crusty debris and contained "varying amounts of wet and caked food remains, which attracted numerous flies." Five- gallon buckets were used to feed dogs, and the small dogs couldn't reach their food; not surprisingly, they were "in very thin condition," and a male terrier "could not reach any of the food contained in a bucket hanging from a chain at the rear of the pen, and consequently the dog was very thin, and ate voraciously when provided with accessible food."

In January 2001, Baird "failed to handle 16 dogs in transportation as carefully as possible in a manner that did not cause trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm and unnecessary discomfort, resulting in the death of at least one dog." Baird was also cited for overcrowding dogs during transport and failing to offer food and water to animals transported for longer than 12 hours.

Baird had myriad sources for dogs and cats. The complaint alleges that at least 18 dogs and cats were obtained "by use of false pretenses, misrepresentation, or deception." He collected some animals at "trade days" in Ripley, MS, Joplin, MO, and Poplar Bluff, MO. While many people sold him one or two animals, others provided as many as five, eight and even 15 animals at one time. We will never know where many of Baird's animals came from since he has a long-standing problem maintaining comprehensive and accurate records. The complaint specifically cites 156 dogs and 168 cats who Baird acquired without obtaining complete information identifying the people who sold him animals. In addition, at least 137 dogs and cats were acquired illegally from people who had not bred and raised the animals as mandated by the Animal Welfare Act; Baird's illegal purchases included "stray" animals.

C.C. Baird and his wife have denied all of the charges. USDA has requested "an expedited oral hearing" and is seeking the maximum civil penalties and revocation of all licenses. In the meantime, Baird is still in business, and apparently about a dozen experimental laboratories shamelessly continue to buy animals from him. No doubt there will be more news to come.

Sadly we report the death of Buck, the sweet-faced coonhound from the cover of the AWI Quarterly, Fall 2003. Buck had been undergoing veterinary treatment since his rescue from Baird's premises in August. He died from a massive bleed, the result of damage caused by thousands of heartworms. We send condolences to the veterinarian, Dr. Jones, and his family, and to Marcia Cowen and the Doberman Rescue Group, who had done so much for dear Buck.

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