Pet Theft Thugs:
They're real. They're nearby.
By Brenda Shoss, 3/24/05
His muddy ID tag recalled another place: A home defined in sloppy
tail-wagging reunions, and a worn spot at the end of the couch. But
to the head erased that life.
The dog lay among the carcasses uncovered in an August 2003 raid of
dealer C.C. Baird's Martin Creek Kennels in Williford, Ark. Federal
inspectors found 750 survivors amid cement dog pens caked in feces,
and rotting food. Many had puncture wounds and lacerations. At the
end of a
six-day criminal inquest involving the U.S. Department of
five other government agencies, authorities confiscated 125 ailing
a lone cat.
C.C. Baird was a Church of Christ Minister and the country's most
trafficker in random-source animals. The Arkansas operator, with
across southern Missouri, paid "bunchers" $5 to $30 for animals
from unknown sources. Baird annually resold about 3,000 dogs to
departments in Missouri, Illinois, California, Florida, and nearly
animal-testing labs nationwide. Dogs went for $150-$700 a head. Cats
$50-$200 a piece.
It was impossible to trace the roots of tens of thousands of animals
Baird's 16-year trail of counterfeit health certificates and muddled
records. In a 108-page complaint filed seven months after the raid,
charged Baird, wife Patsy, and daughters Jeanette and Patricia with
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
roughly 1,100 Baird-type dealers remain USDA-licensed to amass dogs
from "random sources," a term legalized in 1966. Over the last 30
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
(breeders), Class B licensees (brokers), Class C licensees
handlers, and biomedical researchers.
That leaves brokers like Baird free to sell animals of suspect
researchers, illegal dogfighters, breeders, and the meat and fur
Class A dealers, who mass-produce animals at "puppy mills," also
with minimal oversight. Anyone with $10 can pick up a USDA animal
The Pet Protection Act of 1990 orders Class B dealers to maintain
records on the acquisition or disposition of their animals. Still,
half of USDA-examined records are incomplete or fraudulent. A dealer
deemed in "violation" of the Animal Welfare Act after multiple
noncompliant items (NCIs). In most cases, the dealer incurs a
slap-on-the-wrist fine that lets the business of stealing pets proceed
An estimated 1.5 to 2 million companion animals are forcibly taken
year, according to Last Chance for Animals (LCA), a national group
responsible for sending three B dealers to prison. LCA's
revealed live dogs caged alongside battered, choked or shot corpses.
were videotaped with tumors, mange, parasites, parvovirus,
rectal bleeding. At one dealer's site, decomposing dogs were tossed
open dirt grave.
How do Fluffy or Fido wind up in this sell-for-research abyss? The
often begins with bunchers, unlicensed thugs known to have abducted
gunpoint. When bunchers spot unattended animals in cars, yards, or the
streets, they see moneymakers. Bunchers also answer "Free to a Good
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
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
await sale to the final user. Dealers tether dogs to stakes or stuff
into small wire crates. Old appliances even become makeshift cages, PAR
reports, in these "animal concentration camps." To cut costs, the
on intermittent scraps and rancid water. Many do not survive.
Class B dealers derive most of their income from contracts with
labs. Experimenters favor people-friendly subjects and may request
or other submissive breeds.
The research industry is not required to patrol animal dealers.
is. But the agency is stymied by budget cuts and red tape. The bulk
and dogs in labs come from breeders, pounds, bunchers and dealers
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
legally acquired animals and those procured through theft or fraud.
usually transport animals to research centers hundreds of miles from
they were taken. For Fido and Fluffy, animal-testing labs are the
end of the
Until laws enacted to dissuade pet theft are wholly enforced, C.C.
his ilk will continue to inflict untold pain upon animals and the
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Request Kinship Circle sample letter asking USDA/APHIS Animal Care to
enforce AWA regulations, investigate and prosecute violators, and
Class B licenses: firstname.lastname@example.org
KEEP YOUR COMPANION ANIMAL SAFE!
SOURCE: Last Chance For Animals (LCA) http://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
-- 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
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 and 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),
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,
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.)
1. 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
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
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.