'Dealing Dogs' reveals horrors of Ark. kennel

The Martin Creek Kennel was one of the nation's largest kennels.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- An animal-rights activist working his first undercover job made his biggest mistake by giving names to the dogs at northern Arkansas' Martin Creek Kennel. That closeness with the animals leveled a heavy emotional toll as they gradually died from disease, injuries and gunshots.
Pete, not his real name, spent six months at the kennel, cleaning cages for owner C.C. Baird while secretly videotaping the conditions there for Last Chance for Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal-rights group. His work debuts tonight at 10 in an HBO "America Undercover" documentary.
The toll
The documentary is not for the squeamish. Videotape shows dogs dying from malnutrition while others are beaten or shot; their carcasses are piled in eight-foot-deep trenches at the kennel, which bought and raised dogs for use in veterinary schools and research laboratories.
"The undercover footage is very graphic, but it is what happened," said Sarah Teale, an "America Undercover" veteran and co-producer of "Dealing Dogs."
Pete had a favorite dog -- a beagle he named Rebel. The dog died after receiving no treatment for tapeworms, and Pete said he knew he had to divorce himself from his emotions.
"That's what really whipped me into shape," said Pete, who worked at the kennel in 2001 and early 2002. "They broke his spirit, they broke his body and he died. I had to stop naming the dogs and tried to think of them in a different way."
The filmmakers would not reveal Pete's identity, though part of his face is seen in the documentary. A U.S. attorney who received a copy of Pete's video -- and who sent Pete back to the kennel in 2003 to gather more evidence for what was a successful prosecution -- vouched for Pete but also wouldn't disclose his name.
Chance to help
Martin Creek was one of the nation's largest kennels until U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins and federal agencies shut it down last year. Baird and his wife, Patsy, agreed to pay $267,000 in civil fines, the largest penalty ever under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
They also gave up their 700-acre tract, valued at $1.1 million, and they each face jail time on mail-fraud charges after admitting they lied to research facilities about how they acquired some of the animals.
Initially, co-producer Tom Simon said he wanted to research animal abuse and medical research that didn't focus on one animal-rights group. But during their research, he and Teale discovered Last Chance for Animals' plans to go undercover at Martin Creek Kennel.
The two eventually met with Chris DeRose, founder and president of the animal-rights group.
"Where these dogs were, they're like concentration camps for animals. But we want to change the laws to make permanent change for animals," DeRose said.
Pete was the fifth investigator hired to work at Martin Creek, DeRose said. To compile the video, he hid cameras beneath two pairs of jeans in his room so wires wouldn't hang out and give him away, while microphones inside Pete's flannel shirt pockets record workers voices.
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