MANHATTAN — The owner of a doggy daycare and boarding business is suing a former partner claiming he opened a competing business and stole customers, breaking a non-compete agreement, according to a $50,000 lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday.
Jennifer Chen, the owner of Williamsburg and Gramercy-based Happy Dogs NYC, said that Blake Rodriguez, who studied under “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan, stole customers away by promoting a competing dog boarding services Dream Come True K9 in the Lower East Side.
The dog services first entered into an agreement on May 2, 2012, for Rodriguez to provide group-training classes at Happy Dogs locations in Gramercy and Williamsburg.
The agreement specified that Rodriguez would not work with another business or create his own within a three-mile radius of Happy Dogs locations and would not operate a competing business within one year of terminating their contract, court papers said.
“Meanwhile, I have to remind you unless we renegotiate our existing contract, you are bound by its (very clear) non-compete provisions. If you terminate that agreement, you will still be bound by those provisions for 1 year,” Chen emailed Rodrigeuz on Feb. 20, in response to him expanding his dog walking service near Happy Dog’s Manhattan location, according to court papers.
Rodriguez opened his brick and mortar location at 174 Attorney St. earlier this month, after terminating his contract with Happy Dogs on March 3, where he will offer group classes starting in October to help socialize dogs and help them overcome behaviors like separation anxiety, aggression and barking.
“They don’t know about the world out here,” Rodriguez told DNAinfo on Aug. 19. “It’s our job to teach them about it.”
The location is 1.5 miles away from Happy Dogs Gramercy location at 23rd Street and 1st Avenue, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by the New York Post.
Chen claims that “between 30% and 40%” of testimonials on Dream Come True’s website were from current and former Happy Dog customers.
Rodriguez also posted photos on his website of “several dogs” that belonged to clients who have “reduced their use of Happy Dogs’ service or stopped entirely,” according to the court filing.
Dream Come True also offers a two-week and five-week boarding and training programs, which the lawsuit claims directly constitutes a breach of contract.
Rodriguez did not return repeated requests for comment.
"I have no comment. There was no competition with the [dog care] center,” his wife, Lindsey, told DNAinfo. “I have no comment. I'm so sorry."
Chen did not return and immediate request for comment.