A Dartmouth Realtor took a tenant’s canine. Now police have reopened the case.

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On the morning of June 4, 2020, Rob Smaggus woke to a barrage of news.

“I need your help.”

“Somebody stole my dog.”

The news came from his brother, Mike Smaggus. Mike used to work as a delivery agent before being fired because of the pandemic. He had just moved out of his house on Hawthorne Street, Dartmouth, which he had rented for 14 years.

In the Halifax real estate market, the property for sale has hosted more than 60 demonstrations by dozens of real estate agents from various firms. One of these real estate agents was from the 21st century. Her name was Sarah Sullivan. According to the activity listing report received from The Signal, Sullivan toured the property on March 7, 2020.

A few weeks later, after the house was sold, she appeared on Mike’s doorstep.

“Out of the blue she asked me if I had a little white dog,” Mike said in an interview with The Signal.

This began a series of events that separated Mike Smaggus from his dog and resulted in Sullivan’s suspension from work for a month. Now The Signal has learned that the police have reopened the case they once considered a civilian matter.

Four 50 dollar bills

Mike Smaggus and Snoopy, a little white bichon frize, had been together for 10 years. He says Sullivan offered to buy his dog at least twice before May 29, 2020, and every time he refused.

He hadn’t found an apartment that housed dogs and had agreed to house Snoopy with his friend Ann Manuel and their eight-year-old daughter.

“That way, Mike could continue to interact with him,” Manuel said in an email to The Signal. “We didn’t want little Snoop to have separation anxiety. He was familiar with us and got on very well with my dog. My daughter was very excited. “

The only condition would be that Snoopy would have to see the vet before moving. Unfortunately, due to closings during the first wave of the pandemic, he couldn’t get an appointment early enough.

When Sullivan reappeared, Mike explained the situation.

Two hours later, says Mike, Sullivan returned to the house on Hawthorne with four $ 50 bills.

She offered to buy Snoopy. Mike refused. She offered him the money for veterinary bills. He refused again.

Then she said, ‘Well, you’re still going to need a place to put him. Why not hold onto the $ 200 deposit? Just for a day or two. And when you’re ready to get it back, give me a call, ”Mike said. “I figured anyone who would offer you $ 200 without knowing you were a pretty decent person.”

Mike took the $ 200. Sullivan took Snoopy. And she went.

Sarah Sullivan declined to comment on this article. In a 15-page statement she filed with the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission (NSREC), she confirms this sequence of events.

Louisa Manuel, whose niece was waiting for Snoopy to join her the following week, is close to tears as she remembers the day Mike and Snoopy were separated.

“The worst part is that he never had to say goodbye,” she said in an interview.

A civil matter

A trail of text messages between Sullivan and Mike Smaggus received by The Signal reveals what happens next. These messages are from May 31st to July 1st, 2020.

A text from Sunday, May 31st, reads: “He has settled in, loves the children, plays all day in the backyard…. We take walks in the park every day. He is so happy. “

“I know he’s in good hands,” Mike wrote back. “I can pick it up tomorrow night if that’s good for you.”

But Mike didn’t get Snoopy back.

A few days later, Sullivan wrote, “Snoopy is very happy. I think it’s best if he stays with us. My girls will be heartbroken when he leaves. “

Mike called his brother Rob, who told him to contact the police.

“They’ll get their side of the story,” Rob recalls telling Mike. “It must be a total misunderstanding. She is a real estate agent. She is sensible. “

A few hours later, a cop knocked on Mike’s door. Mike says the officer told him Sullivan’s version: she paid for Snoopy and he ran away.

Since the money had changed hands, the police classified the case as a civil matter. “The file was closed without charge,” Halifax Regional Police wrote in a statement to The Signal on January 21, 2020.

In the courts of public and professional opinion that this case would go through, Sullivan repeatedly argued that she bought Snoopy fair-and-square. However, Nova Scotia’s Animal Welfare Act prohibits selling a dog or cat without a health certificate from a veterinarian, which Mike says was never made available.

And Snoopy hadn’t run away.

Century 21 Dartmouth, where Sullivan works as a broker. Chelsy Mahar

An investigation begins

Rob filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission and on June 30, 2020 the NSREC began its investigation.

In her statement to the NSREC, Sarah Sullivan said she gave Snoopy to another real estate agent who rehomed him.

“The conditions [in the house] were unfortunate and absolutely the worst I’ve ever come across as a realtor[sic]”Sullivan wrote.” Because I am an overly compassionate person, I had an overwhelming sense of duty in trying to help the dog out of a clearly negligent situation.

The Signal reached out to five sources who know Mike and say he never neglected or abused his dog.

“We have known him for a long time,” said Louisa Manuel. “I have two cats. He was more than loving and kind. I’ve never seen him abuse his dog.”

“Look, he’s a hoarder. There are no crushing words about it, ”said Rob. “Not at TV level, but Molly Maid would have a field day. Hoarding is a recognized mental illness. He’s had it all his adult life and it’s gotten worse since our mother died. But this dog was not molested. “

In a statement to The Signal, the Nova Scotia SPCA said, “We have no comment because we are not participating.”

“False and / or misleading statements”

On January 14, 2021, the NSREC sent its final response to Mike after a six-month investigation. “The evidence supports that Ms. Sullivan used the information she received as a licensee in her professional capacity under false pretenses … with the intent of having it [the dog] rehomed, ”was the explanation.

It also emerged that Sullivan had threatened to expose Mike’s cell phone number as “retaliation for his inquiries,” “providing the investigator with” several false and / or misleading statements about what happened “and” used information on which as a real estate licensee it has accessed it “for inappropriate purposes that are incompatible with its obligations and the public interest. “

“This behavior is dishonorable, unprofessional and detrimental to the public good and the reputation of the industry as a whole,” she concluded.

Sullivan was fined $ 2,500 and received a monthly suspension of her real estate license. She is allowed to return to her role on Century 21 on February 16.

This was her second hearing before the NSREC. In 2013, she was the subject of a complaint from Shanna Foster, her former sister-in-law, who hired Sullivan to sell her home.

In that case, the NSREC found that “the evidence was supported” that Sullivan Foster’s personal information had been disclosed to two agents at Century 21, made “misleading and, in some cases, false” statements, and extended the terms of their brokerage agreement without Foster’s consent the verification document given to Foster.

Sullivan was fined $ 1,900.

“Good luck Charlie Brown”

The saga played out on social media. Angry, the Smaggus brothers turned to Facebook. Many people expressed their displeasure with Sullivan while others supported them. Memes poured out that Mike regarded as troubled Charlie Brown.

A comment from Sarah Sullivan on Facebook. Screen Grab courtesy Lou Bowden

“Snoopy has to go to Charlie Brown’s house now,” one comment read.

“Good luck, Charlie Brown,” read another.

In a response to Facebook commenters, Sullivan said she started receiving hate mail and threatening calls from strangers on the internet. She promised in a comment on Facebook, “The real reasons I had the dog to be PUBLICLY revealed…. The truth will come out because what you do will cause me to defend myself. “

Where’s snoopy

Rob continues to fight for his brother.

“Mike is emotionally exhausted,” said Rob. “Nobody believed him. And he was bullied. His entire personal life has been featured on social media. And he can’t answer. He doesn’t want to answer. That’s not the kind of person he is. “

Snoopy had been with Mike for 10 years. In 2011, when his mother died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Mike was looking for ways to relieve her last days.

“My mother always had poodles all her life,” said Rob. “Towards the end of her life, her dog, then 12 or 13 years old, turned old. Our main concern was that the dog would come over and that this would worsen their medical problems. So Mike went out and bought Snoopy. “

Her mother died later that year.

Rob says he was recently contacted by a lawyer to settle the case.

“Apparently Snoopy is living with an elderly woman who is in poor health and she doesn’t want to return it,” Rob wrote in an email to The Signal. “He [the lawyer] wants his client to keep Snoopy and he doesn’t offer any compensation. In return, Mike occasionally receives visits and pictures. I declined and asked that Snoopy be returned immediately. “

Rob Smaggus created this bumper sticker to draw attention to the case. Rob Smaggus

The police have reopened the case by February 10. “Due to new information, the file has been reopened and the investigation is still ongoing,” a Halifax Regional Police spokesman wrote in a statement to The Signal.

Mike would like to see Snoopy.

“None of that was about the money,” said Mike. “I would like to see him again and make sure he’s okay. I’m sure he probably has a good home. But that should have been my decision, not someone who didn’t even know my dog ​​or knew me. “

Kunal Chaudhary

Kunal Chaudhary

Kunal Chaudhary is a reporter for The Signal in Toronto, Ontario.

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