Target 5 investigates dog dealers

It's a sight animal right advocates say they'd rather not see. Dog dealers lined up at weekend flea markets, with hundreds of animals for sale. Action News 5 went undercover to get a firsthand view of the conditions at these sales in a Target 5 investigation.

First Monday in Ripley, Mississippi, is a huge flea market on 50 acres that bills itself as one of the oldest known organized flea markets in the U.S. Much of what is sold is regular flea market fair. But if you wander over to the end of the property, you'll see something that has shocked a lot of people over the years, animals, mainly dogs, hundreds of them being sold by people who just show up like any other flea market dealer. In Defense Of Animals spokesman Doll Stanley-Branscu said, "I hear the word barbaric, cruel not coming back here, this makes me sick." Stanley-Branscum is based near Grenada, Mississippi. And she's been to First Monday many times just to get a look. "You see these poor dogs chained up, and they fight with each other because they're chained up on the same link. It's horrible."

Stanley-Branscum and other animal rights advocates say First Monday is a place dog dealers, like Martin Creek Kennels in northeastern Arkansas, come to buy dogs they sell for research, dogs that it was not clear where they came from. It was suspected they were stolen. "I documented on video and with photos one of the class B dealers C.C. Baird of Martin Creek Kennels buying dogs from people who had not raised them."

Martin Creek's owner C.C. Baird is being investigated by the Feds for buying animals without proper documentation and animal cruelty after a raid on his northeast Arkansas kennels. In November 2003, Bud Cummins, U.S. Attorney said, "Some of them, because of the state of their health, were seized. Others didn't have appropriate documentation at the site that established the person there's legal right to have those dogs, so they were taken."

We wanted to get a look for ourselves so we went undercover early on a Saturday morning last month. First Monday is held on the weekend before the first Monday of every month. We arrived around seven a.m. There were already plenty of pickups lined up in a row. It was a morning so cold the water in puddles were frozen. It didn't take long to notice all of the dogs on short chains. One dog's leash is so short it almost has to stand. There are dogs hooked up to the back of pickups, some tied, roped, or chained to the front, others tied to stakes in the ground again on short leashes, many in cages and kennels. Some of them packed in like sardines. Big dogs, medium sized dogs, and puppies. There are even a few goats packed in tightly in a cage and a lot of turkeys and chickens. There are a lot of beagles here. The dog sellers say a lot of hunters come here to buy dogs. "I sell a lot to older people that ain't able to hunt they want them for house dogs." The prices for the dogs are usually low. "Been getting 10 dollars a piece for them." But can be much higher. "75 dollars. She's a year old."

What about C.C. Baird and Martin Creek Kennels? Well, we never saw him or his trucks while we were there or any other class B dealers, but the people who watch for him say he likely will be back. C.C. Baird would not comment for this story. Coming up tonight at ten, part two of our target 5 investigation. Find out why a West Tennessee woman traveled to First Monday. Plus hear what the people who run First Monday have to say. And find out how the state of Mississippi is acting to protect animals.