A dispute over rent and repairs has prompted a landlord to evict the Lucky Dog pet store from its home on San Pablo Avenue, putting the lives of dozens of animals at risk.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department is scheduled to arrive at 2154 San Pablo Avenue at 6:00 am Thursday to take over the property, even though Bobby Rostam, the owner of Lucky Dog, doesn’t yet have a home for the chickens, pigeons, birds, rabbits, turtles, guinea pig, and fish that currently live in the store.
Rostam and his attorneys are asking Alameda County Superior Court for a 10-day reprieve, and they should know the results late on Wednesday.
“I have a bunch of chickens,” Rostam said Wednesday as he oversaw a close-out sale of his store. “I don’t know what I am going to do with them.”
Rostam purchased the Lucky Dog pet store eight years ago after working at Bayer for more than 20 years. The store, with its wide wooden-planked floor heaped with bags of grain and birdseed and rows of fish tanks, feels like an old-fashioned kind of place.
“This is one of the last old-style pet stores in Berkeley,” said Rostam. “I have little customers coming here. The kids really love it. If I leave, there’s nothing for them.”
Rostam, whose legal name is Behrouze Rostampouir, said the trouble began when Mary Pagones, the landlord, refused to make repairs to the store. Water leaked through the roof and skylights, damaging his products and sending chunks of plaster to the floor.
When Pagones didn’t make the repairs, Rostam stopped paying his rent. Court documents show that at one time Rostam owed Pagones about $41,000 in back rent.
In the spring of 2010, Pagones agreed to lower the rent from $3,500 a month to $2,000 a month, with the understanding that Rostam would vacate the premises, according to court documents.
Rostam agreed to leave by November 11 2010, but missed that deadline and hasn’t paid any rent since January, according to Pagones’ lawyer, Bruce Reeves, a well-known eviction attorney in Alameda.
“We gave him a year to take care of the situation because last May he said he needed to take care of his animals,” said Reeves. “That’s what we expected him to do. He hasn’t done so. At some point you have to cut it off.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Rostam was trying to sell some of his stock to customers and also figure out what to do with the animals. His friend and attorney, Adam Gruen, came by with some boxes and offered to find homes for the pets.
“Shall I take the rabbit to the rabbit place?” asked Gruen, who then offered to take some turtles to East Bay Vivarium.
Rostam was hoping that he could leave the 22 chickens and 80 pigeons in their enclosure behind the store past his eviction deadline. He planned to keep caring for them until he could find them a new home.
“We’re just saving lives,” said Gruen. “My only concern is the animals.”
Reeves said if there are any animals still at the store when Pagones retakes possession, he will call the Berkeley animal shelter.
“They are animals,” he said. “They deserve humane treatment. But are they getting humane treatment now?”