In the wake of a recent decision by Gaithersburg to allow a local pet store to remain open while it appeals charges that it mistreated animals, several animal activists demonstrated against the store last weekend.

Demonstrators had planned to picket in front of the Docktor Pet Center, located in Lakeforest Mall. Mall managers refused to let the group inside, saying it was private property.

The protesters were not dissuaded, however, and they stood outside a mall entrance for several hours handing out flyers to shoppers urging them to boycott the store.

"We feel that the store should be closed permanently," demonstrator Barbara Neumeyer said. She said the Gaithersburg store, one of several Docktor Pet Centers in the Washington area, has continued to violate the city's pet shop law following a store manager's conviction last year for cruelty to animals.

Pet store owner George R. Fewster Jr. refused to comment.

Gaithersburg City Manager Sanford W. Daily last month ordered that the shop close its doors by Jan. 4. Daily reached his decision after investigating allegations that some sick animals were not receiving veterinary care or were being sold to customers without warning of pets' poor health, among other charges.

However, Fewster is appealing Daily's order to the city's board of appeals. At an inquiry last week, the board decided that the store can stay open pending the outcome of the appeal, which will be heard next Thursday.