Pet Shop Shuts Down as Owner Is Evicted

Photo: Lucky Dog Pet Store closed March 10 as the owner, Behrouze
Ashley Chen/Staff
Lucky Dog Pet Store closed March 10 as the owner, Behrouze "Bobby" Rostampour, was evicted.

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After spending a little over a year fighting multiple court cases over prolonged conflicts with his landlord, the owner of Lucky Dog Pet Shop was evicted and his store was closed down March 10 in a move surrounded by separate allegations of inhumane treatment of animals at the store.

Store owner Behrouze "Bobby" Rostampour was first taken to court by his landlord Mary Pagonis in February 2010 after he had failed to pay rent for two months in 2009. Rostampour said that at the time, he was unwilling to pay rent because Pagonis had failed to repair structural damages - including a leaking roof and ceiling plaster - at the store located on San Pablo Avenue.

"There was a nasty rain at the beginning of last year in February 2010, and water came from the roof everywhere (around my store)," Rostampour said. "I had no heat, and I lost my fish."

In a settlement reached in March 2010, Rostampour's rent for the two months in 2009 was brought down from the monthly rate of $3,500 to $2,000, and he agreed to find new homes for the animals, vacate the property by November 2010 and pay the remaining rent, according to Pagonis' attorney Bruce Reeves.

However, Rostampour did not leave the property, and in December 2010, he proceeded to sue Pagonis and the insurance company for not repairing structural damages to the building, even after the city gave him a citation in November 2010 requiring Pagonis to make the repairs.

Pagonis then immediately took Rostampour to court for not vacating the property by the pre-settled date.

"They made a deal to hold off the eviction judgment, but they only evicted him when we served them with the civil lawsuit," said Adam Gruen, Rostampour's attorney for the civil lawsuit. "This is about the building owner's inability and refusal to do the obligations of the lease under federal law. When chunks of the ceiling are missing, it makes it tough to do business."

Pagonis could not be reached for comment.

Even before the court proceedings began last year, several customers and city groups - including the Berkeley Animal Care Commission - raised concerns about inhumane treatment of the animals at the shop.

Longtime customer Andy Liu, who helped move the animals out of the store last week, said the animals had not been well-cared for and added that their health worsened due to Rostampour's stress over losing his business.

"He knew he was going to be evicted, and he had a year to sell his animals and didn't," Liu said. "He made a series of poor decisions, and with leaks in (the) roof, it was a damaging way to run business."

Jill Posener, a former member of the commission who was present when the business closed down last week, said Rostampour was not willing to speak with commissioners when treating sick animals and would dump them at the Berkeley Animal Shelter.

"They used (the) animal shelter to dump animals they didn't want," Posener said. "They imported them and sold them unvaccinated from puppy mills ... without being fixed."

However, Marcie Burrell, animal control officer at the shelter, said animals from the shop were always clean and well-fed when they were checked in to the shelter.

"People dumped animals on him a lot (and) he would ask us to pick them up," Burrell said. "We never experienced a dramatic problem with Lucky Dog."


Contact Anjuli Sastry at [email protected]

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