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Online dog-breeding debate prompts lawsuit swap – The Virginian-Pilot

CHESAPEAKE

Man’s best friends don’t necessarily make man’s best friends.

Woofing back and forth on an online chat group for a rare breed of dog – the Coton de Tulear – has resulted in nearly a million dollars in lawsuits.

The lawsuits show that a New York State breeder and registry operator, Robert Jay Russell of the Coton de Tulear Club of America, first criticized the efforts of a competitor in Chesapeake, Mary K. “Kennette.” Tabor and his company, Cottonkist Cotons.

Russell wrote on Yahoo Groups in November that Tabor lied about where his dogs came from and even their color, used “every unethical and even illegal means” to try to put him out of business, and deceptively changed a dog’s name.

“An absolute disaster for the breed,” Russell called her.

Tabor responded three days later.

“You sound delusional,” she began.

She called Russell a liar and accused him of defaming her. She disputed his accusations paragraph by paragraph. She accused him of publicly insulting another breeder after that client took his business elsewhere. She ridiculed her dog show chops for never producing a champion.

Tabor went further. She sued Russell in April in Circuit Court for $200,000, claiming he defamed her.

Russell went even further. He sued Tabor this month for $750,000, claiming she lied when she called him a liar.

Dog breeders can be “passionate,” said Ruth Weidrick of Danville, Ky., vice president of another group, the United States of America Coton de Tulear Club.

“I just know both – I guess a good word would be ‘opinionated’.”

All this on a cute plush ball no bigger than a good sized handbag.

“Coton” is French for cotton, which suggests the coat, according to the Dog Breed Info Center online. the

The Bichon type dog is the official dog of Madagascar, has been reintroduced to Europe and North America over the past 20 years and is known for its tendency to jump and walk on its hind legs.

The Coton de Tulear community is small, so its members know each other, at least by reputation. Tabor and Russell each claim that comments posted by the other harm those reputations and their businesses.

Russell and his Norfolk attorney did not return phone calls this week seeking comment.

Tabor’s attorney, Barry Dorans of Virginia Beach, acknowledged that online chats can be “pretty free,” but said there was a limit. Tabor said in an interview that at some point “you draw a line in the sand and you want to stop these people from saying these things about you”.

There may be philosophical differences. Russell is adamantly opposed to the breed gaining recognition from the American Kennel Club. Weidrick said the fear is that the breed will become too popular and unhealthy overproduction will ensue.

Dorans said that with no central AKC registry, there is no single standard — different registries compete — leaving open the question of which dogs are the true breed.

“Sometimes,” Dorans said, “if you’re outside the auspices of the AKC, it’s the wild Wild West.”

Weidrick agreed that breeding is “very competitive”.

“I think each club is trying to outdo the other,” she said. “Everyone has their own beliefs about what’s best for it.”

Matthew Bowers, (757) 222-5221, matthew.bowers@pilotonline.com

Exchanges on electronic bulletin boards

Russell trial

The Trial of Mary K. Tabor

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