|Mika MADC,- MJDC,- AG.N.J.,- A.G.|
My mom\\\'s- heart dog
|Barked: Sat Sep 30, '06 8:43am PST |
|Did anypup here come from Paws 'R' Us?
Breeder, owner get into legal dogfight
Online postings spark outrage; Golden retriever's medical problems, as well as veterinarian bills, made available on Web
Saturday, September 30, 2006
After an Ottawa judge failed to bring about a settlement, a Quebec dog breeder and an Ontario dog owner vowed yesterday to take their fight to Ontario Superior Court.
The case, which is proving to be a legal dogfight, revolves around online posts left at www.pets.ca, a Canadian website for pet owners.
In August 2005, Lorie Gordon posted a series of messages about Blaze, a golden retriever she had purchased from Paws R Us, a commercial breeding operation in Shawville.
"The only way we could settle this is if I was to give them $10,000, and there's no way," said Gordon, 40, of Brockville, Ont.
She said she has veterinary bills to prove her case and 15 people waiting to testify along with her.
"They're lies," retorted Nicole Labombard, who with her parents, Charlene and James Labombard, owns Paws R Us.
The legal battle has sparked widespread interest from animal lovers and Internet users keen on knowing what one can and cannot say on the Web.
Ottawa lawyer Luc Barrick said yesterday the trial is expected to settle several issues, including what a puppy mill is and whether pets should be considered as more than property under the law.
Barrick, who is representing Labombard, said the pre-trial judge found that what Gordon posted online was defamatory and was uttered to harm Paws R Us.
He added, however, that if Gordon's comments are proven to be based in fact, they could be considered "fair comment."
In August 2005, Gordon posted messages at www.pets.ca saying Paws R Us had sold her a sick dog. She detailed medical problems suffered by the golden retriever she named Blaze, including bouts with a skin disease and epilepsy, as well as her veterinary bills.
When Labombard learned about the online messages, she and her mother had the posts removed from the website and sued Gordon for damages.
They contend Gordon hurt their family business and are demanding about $9,500 in lost sales.
In a countersuit, Gordon is demanding the Labombards pay her dog's veterinary bills, which amount to thousands of dollars.
As both sides aired their grievances at the pre-trial hearing, Marko Kulik, the Montreal website administrator of www.pets.ca, said he is keen to hear a judgment but happy not to be part of the court case.
Kulik started www.pets.ca in 1999 and said the site now receives as many as 8,000 hits a day, usually from pet owners who want to share stories and tips about their dogs and cats.
But while the site has grown, he added, there's still a lot of uncertainty about what can be said legally online.
He said the contentious posts were deleted as soon as a lawyer representing the Labombards contacted the site.
Kulik said he continues to look for ways to provide a forum for pet owners while balancing freedom of speech with fair business practices.
Animal welfare is a priority of many of the people who use www.pets.ca, he said, but the anonymity of the Web also opens the door to malpractice.
For example, Kulik noted, one dog breeder could go online and say something negative about another to hurt the other's business.
To prevent that, his site now accepts posts only from paid email accounts, Kulik said. That way, posts can be traced, he explained.
A court date has not been scheduled.
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