Dog daycare evicted from Malibu Bay Co. property

Just months after evicting the longtime Malibu Animal Hospital owner and replacing her with a reportedly close associate of the company, the Malibu Bay Co. has evicted the owners of the independent dog daycare from the property and will be re-opening a daycare under different leadership.

By Susan Reines/Special to The Malibu Times

The owners of Malibu’s Canine Connection dog daycare have received an eviction notice ordering them off the Malibu Bay Co. property they have been sharing with the Malibu Animal Hospital, breaking what the daycare owners say was a verbal agreement from the new hospital owner to preserve the independent daycare.

Malibu’s Canine Connection owners Leslie Moskowitz and Jenny LeClair said Dr. Dean Graulich, the veterinarian who took over the Malibu Animal Hospital last summer after Malibu Bay made a controversial decision to replace 17-year hospital owner Dr. Nancy Smith, reportedly refused rent payment during the past few months of renovation and allegedly repeatedly promised that Moskowitz and LeClair would not lose their facility-right up until Graulich’s lawyer delivered an eviction notice charging the duo with trespassing because they had not paid rent.

“Long story short, he [Graulich] wasn’t accepting money for rent since he’s been the new owner,” Moskowitz said. “Yesterday, we got a notice saying that since no money has been exchanged, we are now being considered trespassers.”

Moskowitz said she and LeClair had expected to leave the property when Smith was ousted in July, but Graulich, who also has a practice at Pacific Coast Animal Hospital on Malibu Road, had convinced them to stay.

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Moskowitz alleges that Graulich refused to sign anything in writing but pledged verbally to allow her and LeClair to stay on the property. “He told myself and Jenny numerous times on numerous different occasions, ‘you guys are fine; you have my word.'”

“We chose not to look for another location because he said we were fine,” LeClair added. “I think anyone would have believed him.”

Graulich said his lawyer had advised him not to comment on the situation except to say the daycare would reopen “as soon as possible,” though he would not say whether he or someone else would be in charge.

Graulich was at the center of the controversy last spring and summer when Malibu Bay evicted Smith as she was negotiating to sell the practice to another veterinarian, with no notice to Smith or the hopeful buyer, Dr. Lisa Newell.

Newell said at the time that she had no answers for about a month from Malibu Bay about what was happening, knowing only that Smith had been evicted, until Graulich, who has cared for the dogs of Malibu Bay President Jerry Perenchio, called her and said he was moving in.

LeClair and Moskowitz said they had experienced similar difficulty getting answers from Malibu Bay and Graulich. Graulich had kept minimal contact with them since taking over the hospital and was now referring their calls to his lawyer, who has insisted that Graulich never made a verbal agreement, Moskowitz said.

Moskowitz said she, LeClair and a person who works for Graulich, all heard Graulich promise to preserve Canine Connection. Graulich also told The Malibu Times in an April interview that all the programs would remain when he took over at Malibu Animal Hospital.

But Hinden and Abel, the law firm Moskowitz and LeClair have retained to protect their rights, said that even if a verbal agreement could be proven, Graulich would be able to evict them in one month since there was no lease agreement signed.

LeClair and Moskowitz said they would try to find another location for Canine Connection, but Malibu zoning laws would make it near impossible to find another site in the city. Their current location was grandfathered when zoning rules were created.

The business has also been shaken by months of losses because few clients have been coming in as Graulich has been renovating the animal hospital, LeClair and Moskowitz said.

LeClair said she guessed, though she and Moskowitz have not been able to confirm Graulich’s exact plans, that Graulich would take over the daycare and absorb the approximately 1,500 regular clients LeClair and Moskowitz have accumulated over the past six years.

She said the clients would have no real option other than to use Graulich’s new daycare.

“I’m sure they will. What else are they going to do? They have to do something with their dogs; we can’t blame them for that,” LeClair said.

LeClair and Moskowitz have been allowing the nonprofit Malibu Pet Companions to use their site for dog adoptions every Sunday for years, but the fate of that program is now in question.

Joan Miller of Malibu Pet Companions said Graulich had not returned her call asking whether the group would still be allowed to use the site.

Miller said she would not go quietly if Graulich said the adoption program was no longer allowed. “We have had great success at that location…the problem is, we’ll never be able to find another location where we’ll be able to take the same number of dogs,” Miller said.

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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