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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fight Over Dixie, the Bedbug-Hunting Dog

(CN) - A Virginia exterminator must return a valuable bedbug-hunting dog, Dixie, to the company that fired him, a federal judge ruled.

Western Industries-North, a pest-removal service, said it paid $10,400 for Dixie, a dog specially trained to sniff out bedbugs.

Blaine Lessard worked for Western as Dixie's handler until Western found out that, on his days off, Lessard was providing bedbug-detection services for American Canine Scent Detection (ACSD), a company registered under his wife's name.

ACSD's website featured a picture of Lessard and Dixie, and Lessard described himself as a "Master Canine Handler and Trainer at ACSD" on the social-networking website Linked In.

Western fired Lessard in February for violating the noncompetition agreement of his contract.

At that time, Western asked Lessard to return Dixie, but Lessard allegedly responded: "You're not getting the dog. There's just no way you're gonna get the dog."

Western then sued Lessard for allegedly using Dixie in his competing business, and demanded Dixie back.

According to Western, "In each of the last two years, Dixie alone has generated annual gross revenues in excess of $100,000."

"After pawing through the record and sniffing out the relevant law," U.S. District Judge James Cacheris in Alexandria granted Western's motion for a temporary restraining order.

"In his employment agreement, Lessard promised to return all of Western's property upon the termination of his employment," the decision states. "Nonetheless, Lessard continues to hold Dixie despite plaintiff's demand for her return. Consequently, Lessard has wrongly assumed control over Dixie."

"Plaintiff will clearly lose future business so long as defendants hold Dixie, and plaintiff alleges that the business it has derived from Dixie is substantial," he wrote.

"Defendants' dogged attempt to demonstrate ownership of Dixie is wholly unconvincing," Cacheris added.

Furthermore, "Lessard's employment agreement precludes him from soliciting pest control business from customers in the states in which he worked and was assigned during the two-year period preceding his termination," according to the judgment.

Cacheris said that, "at this time, plaintiff merely seeks to enjoin Lessard from engaging in the canine bedbug detection business in any counties in which he performed work on behalf of Western during the two years preceding his termination. The court finds such a restriction reasonable."

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