Groups seize 200 animals from pet store

The doors remained open at Laurelwood Pets on Tuesday, but there weren’t any pets, after the Peninsula Humane Society and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized 200 animals that were allegedly being kept in unclean and unhealthy conditions.

The animals seized Friday, mostly fish, birds, rodents and rabbits, were allegedly found living in soiled cages, eating from food dishes containing feces and living in fish tanks without enough water, according to PHS/SPCA lead investigator Debi DeNardi. This isn’t the first charge for co-owner Mohammed Olfat, who served 14 days in jail after pleading guilty in March to charges that he mistreated and sold sick cats and dogs.

Olfat, who would not comment on the situation Tuesday, could now face up to 90 days in jail for the latest charges, DeNardi said. His wife, Farzaneh Bique, recently assumed ownership of the pet store and was also cited during Friday’s raid.

Pet owners began calling the PHS/SPCA about Laurelwood Pets in 2003.

“They’d buy a cat and [soon after], it’s dead. He was selling these sick dogs and cats, and people were spending thousands of dollars treating them,” DeNardi said. Olfat was placed on probation and told he could only sell small animals, not dogs or cats.

Employees at neighboring businesses in the Laurelwood Shopping Center, such as Town & Country Cleaners, Jamba Juice and a liquor store, said they were not aware of any wrongdoing at the pet store, but never shopped there. Georgette Sarles, president of the Laurelwood Homeowners Association, said she avoids the store.

“He’s kind of abusive, even to customers,” Sarles said. “He’s not too well-liked.”

The PHS/SPCA, which also provides animal control services for the county under contract, has performed a number of recent animal seizures, including 50 goats at a Portola Valley farm on Saturday, 11 farm animals from Triple Springs Ranch in Half Moon Bay on July 27 and 80 rabbits from a South San Francisco home in June, according to DeNardi.

Those raids are part of a recent return to investigations of animal cruelty, according to PHS/SPCA Director Ken White.

“Before I got here [my predecessor] ordered the organization to move away from cruelty investigations because there was a financial conflict with the county,” White said. “That seemed so amazingly wrong.”

The program is now funded entirely through donations.

Statewide, there is increased interest in the well-being of animals housed in pet stores. This week, the state Senate considered a bill that would create stricter rules about how rodents and other small creatures should be cared for by store employees.

Laurelwood Pets’ animals are doing well, and should be available for adoption in 14 days, according to DeNardi. A court hearing for Olfat and Bique will be set through the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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