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Pit bull rescues on attack

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By Damon Lawrence

Two East Tennessee pit bull rescue groups are at odds with each other.
Harriman-based East Tennessee Pit Bull Rescue Inc. and Break The Chain Pit Bull Rescue, which operates from Lenoir City, sued each other in Roane County General Sessions Court last year. Both suits were dismissed without prejudice in March.

Months before the dismissal, a judge put a mutual restraining order in place that was supposed to prohibit the parties from making disparaging remarks on Facebook or talking and texting each other.

Donice Butler, attorney for East Tennessee Pit Bull Rescue Inc., refiled the lawsuit in Roane County Circuit Court last month.  

“What we really wanted in general sessions court was an order for them to stop their disparaging,” Butler said. “Initially, that’s all my clients wanted, ‘Hey stop the madness. Quit the defamation and let’s settle this,’ but it became very evident early on in general sessions court that wasn’t going to happen, so I quickly saw that we needed to go into circuit court.”

In the lawsuit, Butler claims Break The Chain defamed her clients, which caused them to suffer financially.

“They do business with various other rescues and other entities that are interested in animal rescue, and this group told some untruths about them that cost them quite a bit of monetary damage,” Butler said.

“They’re a non-profit organization, but they have to make enough money to continue to rescue animals.”

East Tennessee Pit Bull Rescue Inc. is seeking compensation for monetary losses, punitive damages and an order to prevent Break The Chain representatives from “further acts of assault, defamation and interference.”

“To some people it might sound like name-calling and put downs, but when you accuse people of mistreating animals and improperly euthanizing them and so forth, then it makes other entities you do business with wary of doing business with you,” Butler said. “That’s what we have alleged in the complaint.”

The lawsuit also references an alleged assault against Butler’s clients that occurred at Tractor Supply Co. in Rockwood.

“There’s actually a videotape of some members of the rival entity coming toward them, running toward them aggressively and cursing them,” Butler said.

Break The Chain has yet to file an answer to the lawsuit.

Wendy Jackson is the registered agent of East Tennessee Pit Bull Rescue Inc.

“Wendy Jackson got word of another pit bull rescue in town, and it seemed from the get go she has tried to destroy us,” Break The Chain said in a court document filed in sessions court.

Jackson was once the director of Keep Roane Beautiful. In 2008, she was indicted for stealing money from the organization.

Jackson pleaded guilty to theft in 2011. She received probation and agreed to pay $7,500 in restitution.

Break The Chain said eight people left East Tennessee Pit Bull Rescue Inc. in 2011 after they found out about Jackson’s legal troubles with Keep Roane Beautiful.

“Those eight people choose to come to BTC,” Break The Chain said. “Needless to say, this started a war.”

Break The Chain also alleged Jackson was “vet hopping due to writing bad checks.”

“She would deny that,” Butler said.

Butler also said Jackson has shown remorse for what she did at Keep Roane Beautiful.

According to state records, East Tennessee Pit Bull Rescue Inc. is dissolved.

Butler said the organization is operating legally.