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‘Hugo is fine’: RCMP say B.C. resident harassed over false cruelty claim

Claims in Richmond ‘thoroughly investigated and determined to be unfounded’
RCMP in Richmond, B.C., are telling the public to leave a pet owner and their dog Hugo, shown in this undated handout photo provided by the City of Richmond, alone after the resident was “mercilessly harassed” over unfounded claims of animal abuse. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-City of Richmond

Police in Metro Vancouver are telling the public to leave a pet owner and their dog Hugo alone after the resident was “mercilessly harassed” over unfounded claims of animal abuse.

A statement from Richmond RCMP said they received multiple calls since June 16 to investigate the pet owner after posters were put up around the city listing the address and accusing the resident of cruelty.

But the RCMP said the claims have been “thoroughly investigated and determined to be unfounded” by police, the city and the BC SPCA.

The statement said the Mounties have had to post officers outside the home “to preserve public safety” and tell the public the claims are baseless.

Cpl. Adriana O’Malley said in Thursday’s statement that officers have observed a “steady stream of people” turning up at the home, some of them “aggressive and confrontational.”

RCMP said the situation is now being investigated as a case of mischief targeting the resident.

“We need the public to understand that Hugo is fine and not encountering any abuse,” O’Malley said.

She said it appeared someone had “made a concerted effort to publicize” the false allegations by posting signage on city property.

A Tweet from the City of Richmond’s account on Wednesday said the dog was safe and well, adding the hashtag “Hugo is fine.”

City of Richmond spokesman Clay Adams said in an interview that the mayor’s office received more 50 phone calls about Hugo’s owner on Tuesday night, after images of the posters went viral on social media.

Adams said the office’s number was listed on the posters, and the callers were “very angry” and “abusive.”

But city bylaw and SPCA officers found Hugo to be a “happy, healthy dog,” he said.

The owner was “extremely cooperative” and shared Hugo’s veterinary records, showing that he was up to date with his shots, and well cared for, said Adams.

The city also shared a photo of Hugo, a Labrador retriever, looking healthy.

“He had shelter, he had food, he had water. He was actually even a little overweight, which was not expected to see in an animal that was neglected,” said Adams.

Adams said the city had called the RCMP, concerned about the resident’s safety because people had been banging on his door.

He said the case was an extraordinary example of the power of misinformation.

BC SPCA senior officer Eileen Drever confirmed that Hugo was in no distress, and “we are satisfied that the dog is receiving appropriate care.”

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