Bobby Rostam looks at the chickens who live at Lucky Dog. Photos: Frances Dinkelspiel.

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?”

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. Message from MickaCoo bird rescue:
    MickaCoo volunteers will be back on Sunday to catch, box & transport these 150+ abandoned pigeons to our newest foster volunteer’s loft in Gilroy. We need donations to help feed & flock treat them (for worms, etc.), and for vet care for those who need it. Fortunately, the vast majority appear to be healthy despite the conditions in which they’ve been living.

    Link to photos of the rescue from the Lucky Dog property:

  2. Regardless of who was more at fault about repairs and lease payments on the property, the owner of Lucky dog “agreed to leave by November 11 2010” and he knew months before that things were not working out. Yet he continued to keep, literally, over a hundred animals at this store without any workable plans in place for where they could go when his business folded.

    Now that the time is upon him and the animals have no place to go the owner is trying to pass himself off as the good guy, someone who just wants to do the right thing for the animals while everything going wrong is someone else’s fault, etc. I don’t think so.

  3. I just got the following email from Mickacoo bird rescue – please contact them directly if you can help by fostering/adopting a pigeon!

    >>MickaCoo, already stretched to the breaking point with 92 rescued pigeons and doves in our all-volunteer foster care system is rising to more challenges today to help Berkeley Animal Control Services with 100 pigeons that were abandoned by the owner of Lucky Dog Pet Shop in Berkeley today AND to help the survivors of more than 60 king pigeons that were “released” at a Milpitas business for good luck but that instead are dying for lack of care. King pigeons are domestic and don’t survive in the wild.

    Please help us to help these birds by donating and adopting! Please contact me at

  4. This store is shameful. They breed animals in the store and release rabbits that don’t sell behind the store to fend for themselves and, if they’re lucky, be picked up by the SPCA.
    It is ludicrous that management is feigning concern for animals now! Good riddance Lucky Dog. May the animals currently in your care find respite, and thank goodness to further sufferring will be caused in the name of your bottom line.

  5. The animals are NOT at risk in Berkeley, the shelter will confiscate any animals that are abandoned. Berkeley rescue groups, while already full, do have some capacity to rehome all the leftover animals. In the long run it is better that this store be shut down. The animals in the cages at this store were routinely neglected. It is better that no more animals come through “lucky dog.”

  6. He should have kept paying his rent, only in escrow. He could have then sue the pants of the landlord. Obviously, we are not hearing the full story. Perhaps he was planning on closing anyway and just stiffed the landlord? It’s not like he would go to jail or anything…

  7. This guy has a history of selling un-neutered and un-spayed puppies and kittens. He has been in the radar of lots of people and I ,for one am glad to see him shut down. Hopefully with this publicity, the chickens can find homes.

  8. This is not the first time Lucky Dog has gone through a crisis. I’ve lived in the area west of MLK for now close to 30 years. In this time Lucky Dog has been through multilple changes in ownership. There have been multiple imminent closures and crises.

    Of course, some of the pressures on Lucky Dog is due to the newer competition from Pet-X chain stores. But some of the pressure is from people who have for many years boycotted the store because the store sells live animals. Some people feel that no live animal should be “sold.” You’ll notice that the chain store down the street at University and San Pablo doesn’t sell live animals. There are other pet stores in Berkeley which sell live animals who aren’t “rescued” but who have continued to function.

    I’m not one of these people who feel quite as strongly about live animal sales, though I haven’t bought anything much at Lucky Dog very often because they haven’t had what I felt I needed to have for my pets. This business has been under a lot of stress for many reasons for many years.

  9. From the picture it doesnt seem like these animals are being well cared for. The area should be free roaming space and it is cluttered with junk. Maybe these poor animals will be better off.
    Sad story!

  10. What would be the best way for people interested in the animals to contact Rostom?

    I’ve been thinking about getting backyard chickens for a few months now, and if he has any egg-laying hens that need adoption I’d be happy to give a home to a few of them.