In light of a complaint against R&R Research of Howard City by the USDA on July 20, 2012, Pet Friends Magazine looked more closely into what violations have actually been documented by the USDA over the years after doing inspections on the facility.
R&R Research is a licensed USDA Class B animal dealer, which means they supply live animals (cats and dogs ) to research facilities. Their license is currently valid through April 23, 2014 and was first obtained in 1969. A Class B random source dealer may obtain animals from random sources such as animal shelters/pounds, auctions, flea markets and other research facilities. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) establishes humane standards for the care, transport and acquisition of animals used in research facilities and it also requires regulation of these facilities. The AWA requires a five-day minimum holding period for animals in shelters/pounds who are to be sold to animal dealers. The AWA also requires record keeping requirements for dealers who obtain animals from shelters. In addition the AWA requires that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA inspect these facilities four times per year.
The Class B dealers are required to hold an animal for an additional ten full days after legally acquiring that animal from the shelter before they can sell it. They can then sell the animal to biological supply companies (who sell live or dead animals to classrooms or labs), blood supply companies in addition to labs that do testing, research and teaching.
Selling animals to laboratories seems to be quite a lucrative business. According to dyingtolearn.org, a website by the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), “Despite treating animals inhumanely, obtaining animals through suspect means, and being cited for several AWA violations, R&R Research sold 1,855 animals between 2005 and 2007 and grossed $558,486 in sales.”
In the past, R&R Research was working in conjunction with the Montcalm County Animal Shelter and also Gratiot County to obtain their animals from their animal shelters. According to Mecosta County, they do not currently provide their shelter animals to R&R Research or any other research facility. They also don’t use R&R Research for the disposal of their animals. Montcalm and Osceola counties also dropped their contracts with R&R Research.
Gratiot County was contacted about their relationship with R&R Research, but they did not respond. A 2009 article by the Gratiot County Herald states that the County had renewed their five-year contract with R&R Research and that in exchange for taking the county’s animals, R&R Research also disposes of the euthanized county animals. The contract expires this year. According to an article by the American Anti-Vivisection Society, the county’s Board of Commissioners agreed to changes at the county Animal Control office which include providing only one animal per year to R&R Research to fulfill the contract. Former County Administrator Nicole Frost said that “(R&R) knows he won’t see another contract.”
The American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) reports that R&R is a part of a network of Missouri- and Michigan-based animal dealers. Dogs have been sold and transported to the University of Florida, the University of Michigan, MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Minnesota.
A compiled list of violations over the years was obtained from Lake Haven Rescue and includes the years 1981 through 2008. (R_RViolations) and more have been found on the USDA website and are linked here (INSPECTION REPORTS) for the years 2008 through 2013.
Over the years, violations documented during inspections of R&R Research include: heart sticking (intracardiac euthanasia) without anesthesia – puppies screaming in agony until they died in full view of other dogs; no records on dogs and cats at the facility regarding sales or deaths; unacceptable euthanasia procedures; wooden chicken crate-type containers used, not allowing room for animals to sit erect; no litter boxes for cats as well as other standards not being followed; too many cats in the enclosures; outdoor shelter temperature too cold; dogs not removed from cages when hosed out; no one on premises so inspectors can visit/inspect; dead puppies due to other dogs being in area of pregnant dog; tight and sharp collars on the cats; unclean straw; water bowls for dogs are frozen; dogs noticeably shaking from cold (short-haired dogs suffering the most); sick and coughing dogs with no treatment records; continuous failure to hold animals the required stray period for owners to reclaim; euthanizing a dog in a C02 barrel; no health certificates for animals delivered out of state; outdated drugs; cat with hematoma not treated; a dog with a collar so tight it needed immediate treatment; peeling paint in the cat room and more.
More recently, a complaint against R&R was finally filed on July 20, 2012 by the USDA against James Woudenberg (doing business as R&R Research). The USDA’s complaint against R&R Research states that R&R Research willfully violated the Animal Welfare Act. They complained that regulations do not permit R&R Research to utilize their source of dogs or cats in the manner in which they were doing business. There were five violations cited in this complaint where the USDA claims R&R Research obtained dogs and cats from unauthorized sources in 2008.
The violations had to do with donated dogs that R&R received from individuals. According to the AWA, Class B dealers may accept random source animals from unlicensed individuals who have bred and raised the animals. They cannot have sold or donated more than 25 animals in a year or grossed more than $500 a year from their animals.
Judge Janice Bullard found that these individuals did not qualify as a dealer and could not be held liable for the regulations regarding dealers in the AWA language and were not required to secure a license to legitimize their donations.
As an individual, these five donators of animals had to sign a form given to them by R&R Research that certifies their animal donation was born and raised on their premises. After listening to the testimony of these individuals, Bullard found that all five people who donated their animals to R&R Research had given animals to R&R Research that they had NOT been bred and raised from birth and that they had falsely signed, or authorized a signature on, written certification that they had bred and raised the donated animals.
The language of the law states that the Class B dealer cannot knowingly obtain a cat or dog from any person who is not licensed without obtaining a certification that the animals were born on that person’s property. Bullard’s opinion was that R&R Research obtained certification from the donors and that they are not responsible for false statements made by such donors – that Class B dealers are dependent upon the answers of the people who dispose of their animals. The AWA regulations do not require Class B dealers to verify the origins of the animals they acquire. The regulations also do not hold these dealers liable for false statements made by donors on certifications that the donors sign. Therefore, the complaint was dismissed by Judge Bullard. You can read the entire decision here: Decision and Order filed 12-20-13 by Bullard
The Humane Society of the United States expressed disappointment with the judge’s dismissal of the case, but said that they will continue to press for strong enforcement action by the USDA. Michigan citizens are urged to visit www.humanesociety.org/issues/pets_experiments to learn more about the issue and find out how they can stop pound seizure and Class B dealers.