Animal control officer sued for defamation 

A San Mateo pet store owner who served jail time last year in an animal cruelty case is fighting back with a lawsuit alleging defamation and emotional distress.

The civil lawsuit is the third filed in a week by disgruntled animal owners naming embattled animal control officer Debi DeNardi, as well as the Peninsula Humane Society and San Mateo County.

Mohammed Olfat and his wife, Farzanea, the owners and operators of Laurelwood Pet Store in San Mateo, filed suit Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court. Represented by attorney Mark Webb, the complaint alleges that DeNardi made "derogatory and defamatory statements" to the press starting in August 2006.

It also alleges that a May 2005 stroke suffered by Mohammed Olfat was brought on by "anxiety, hypertension, and the stress and pressure" from DeNardi and the Peninsula Humane Society.

In December 2006, a San Mateo County Superior Court Judge ordered Mohammed Olfat not to sell any pets through December 2008.

Olfat pleaded no contest to charges he housed animals in unhealthy conditions and spent 14 days in jail. He also spent five days in jail in 2004 on similar charges.

Webb also represents Tamara Doukas and Janet Wherry in their suits against the county, humane society and DeNardi, filed Feb. 20.

Doukas alleges DeNardi and a veterinarian at the San Mateo Animal Hospital acted negligently in diagnosing and euthanizing her dog, Kodiak, against her wishes. Wherry, who is facing charges of animal cruelty, alleges DeNardi unlawfully seized and euthanized sheep from her Half Moon Bay ranch.

DeNardi, who was also investigated in October by police but not charged with illegally breeding golden retrievers on her property in Colma and keeping livestock, namely miniature horses and pygmy goats, would not comment on the new lawsuit. That investigation was prompted by a complaint from Redwood City resident Jim Knapp, an acquaintance of Doukas.

Humane Society spokesman Scott Delucchi said the organization always makes recommendations first about how best to care for the animals before filing charges, something that was done with Laurelwood Pet Store. The District Attorney’s Office decides if the evidence is sufficient to prosecute.

"This is a clear case of someone who went out of his way to ignore the recommendations on multiple occasions," Delucchi said.

Webb, however, said that Mohammed Olfat "caved" to pressure in pleading no contest in his previous case.

"The course of harassment is [DeNardi has] brought charges, and they’re false. And in the course of conduct, he caved and was no longer able to fight her," Webb said.

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