ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A pest-control service claims an employee swiped its valuable bedbug-hunting dog, Dixie, to use in his competing business, then told it, “You’re just not gonna get the dog. There’s no way you’re gonna get the dog.”
Western Pest Services says it paid $10,400 for the “specially trained scent dog named Dixie,” which it bought from trainers in Florida.
“Dixie alone has generated annual gross revenues well in excess of one hundred thousand dollars,” according to the complaint.
Western sued Blaine Lessard and his wife, Darlene Marie Breck, as registered owner of the trade name American Canine Scent Detection, in Federal Court.
Western says it owns four trained dogs, which earn beaucoup bucks finding bedbugs in hotels, hospitals and other businesses.
Western says it hired Lessard to work as Dixie’s handler in March 2009. “Before joining Western, Mr. Lessard had no experience providing canine bedbug detection services; instead, his primary occupation was the sale of office furniture,” the complaint states. “Western paid for Mr. Lessard’s training with Dixie and agreed to provide him with a monthly stipend to board the dog on his property.”
But Western claims it discovered that Lessard was using Dixie to hunt bedbugs for his own business, in violation of an agreement that prohibited him from competing with Western.
“In November 2011, Western received information that Mr. Lessard was using Dixie to provide canine bed bug detection services in direct competition with the company,” the complaint states. “Western first became aware of this when Mr. Lessard inadvertently faxed a worksheet to [Western employee] Ms. Woods showing that, on a day he was on leave from work, he had taken Dixie to Pennsylvania to provide bed bug detection services for a business that was not a Western customer. As a result of this, Western focused increased attention on Mr. Lessard’s business activities.
“In February 2012, Western discovered the website of a competing canine bed bug detection service in Maryland operating under the name American Canine Scent Detection (‘ACSD’). Mr. Lessard’s wife, co-defendant Darlene Marie Breck, registered the trade name ‘American Canine Scent Detection’ on Nov. 30, 2010.
“The website promoted ACSD’s inspection services by prominently featuring both Mr. Lessard and Dixie and citing their extensive experience in the industry. Upon discovery of this website, Western immediately decided to separate Mr. Lessard’s employment and recover his company property, including Dixie.
“On Feb. 10, 2012, Mr. Lessard met with General Manager James Bankhead at the branch office in Fairfax, Va. Mr. Bankhead informed Mr. Lessard that his employment was being terminated and asked him to return Dixie. Mr. Lessard refused, repeatedly telling Mr. Bankhead, ‘You’re not getting the dog. You’re just not gonna get the dog. There’s no way you’re gonna get the dog.’
“Mr. Lessard continues to offer canine bedbug detection services through the ACSD website. The website indicates that ACSD uses dogs trained by ‘Blaine Lessard, Master Canine Trainer and Handler, and one of the most experienced authorities in the canine bed bug scent industry.’ The site also contains a promotional ‘News Room’ featuring stories about Dixie and Mr. Lessard that date from when Mr. Lessard was employed by Western. As recently as Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, the telephone number on the ACSD website matched the telephone number on Mr. Lessard’s Linked-In page, and the Linked-In page contained a link to the ACSD web site.
“As described on the ACSD website, ACSD’s handlers provide inspection services for the same types of customers that Mr. Lessard served while he was an employee of Western, and they operate in the same geographical area.
“The ACSD website contains false or misleading statements claiming credit for work Mr. Lessard could only have performed on behalf of Western.”
Western claims Lessard not only breached his employment agreement and swiped Dixie, he used Western’s confidential information to tortiously interfere with its business.
Western claims Lessard knows its customers, its pricing models and other confidential information, and is using the information to harm it.
Western wants Dixie back, and it wants Lessard and Breck ordered to stop competing with Western.
It seeks a restraining order and injunction and exemplary damages for conversion, breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty and tortious interference with business expectancy.
Western is represented by John Flood with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, of Washington, D.C.