Settlement Averts Arkansas Trial of Suit Against Sharp County Research Animal Sellers

JANUARY 25, 2005 - Posted at 7:24 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Lawyers say a settlement has averted trial of a lawsuit against operators of one of the nation's largest kennels, which sells dogs and cats to medical research facilities.

The federal Agriculture Department filed the complaint March 11 (2004), seeking more than $1 million in administrative penalties from Chester C. Baird, Jr. and three family members.  They operate the Martin Creek Kennel and Pat's Pine Tree Farms near Williford, in Sharp County.  The agency also sought to revoke their license to market animals.

Trial of the complaint had been scheduled to start Monday before an administrative law judge, but was called off, and court officials said the case had been settled.

Federal officials said the agreement had not yet been signed by both sides.

The 108-page complaint claimed that the Baird family mistreated dogs and cats, falsified health records for animals sold to researchers and failed to supply the "barest standards of care" for the animals.

In the summer of 2003, federal agents seized 125 dogs and one cat from Mill Creek Kennel.  The animals were farmed out to animal welfare groups, which found homes for them.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)