PIERSON TOWNSHIP — R&R Research was the subject of much local criticism and news coverage about three years ago in Montcalm County.
Now the Howard City-area facility may be in trouble at the national level.
R&R Research, located at 19256 Kendaville Road just north of Howard City, purchases or accepts dogs and cats to sell to laboratories for research and experimentation.
The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced legal action against R&R Research and its owner, Jim Woudenberg.
According to USDA documents, Woudenberg “willfully violated the Animal Welfare Act.” The USDA alleges Woudenberg obtained dogs and cats from illegal sources on five different occasions in 2008.
“I guess I’m surprised but not surprised,” said Woudenberg in response to the allegations.
Woudenberg said when someone gives an animal to R&R Research, they have to fill out a form stating the animal was born and raised on that person’s property and that they are aware the animal will be used for research. He said the USDA does “tracebacks” of the animals procured by R&R Research.
Woudenberg said some people may have given him animals that were not born and raised on their property.
“These people solicited R&R,” he said. “We did not solicit them. None of these people were paid for an animal. We don’t pay for animals. They surrendered the animals of their own free will. I can’t tell whether someone was lying to me or not. All I can do is take them at face value.
“We think the USDA in this case was wrong,” he said. “We look forward to our day in court so we can defend ourselves.”
The Humane Society of the United States issued a press release “applauding” the USDA’s decision to pursue legal action against R&R Research.
“Theft of pets by dog dealers is what drove passage of the original Animal Welfare Act in this country and R&R Research typifies these concerns” said Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for the Humane Society. “We are pleased to see that the USDA has taken serious action and urge revocation of R&R’s license permanently.”
The Humane Society, in correspondence with the USDA in May 2010, urged the agency to revoke R&R’s license following four alleged violations for obtaining dogs and cats illegally.
Once filed with the USDA, a complaint can lead to a cease and desist order, assessing of civil penalties, and/or revoking or suspending the dealer’s license. Inspection reports filed by the USDA separate from the complaint show that R&R Research has been cited six more times since 2008 for the same violation of illegally obtaining random source dogs and cats, according to the Humane Society.
After much public complaint, the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners voted 6-3 in April 2009 not to renew a contract with R&R Research when the contract expired later that summer.