What happens to a police K-9 if his handler retires? If the dog is still capable of serving the police force, he stays on duty and begins training with a new handler. As you can imagine, this is a tough transition for the dog and a tough transition for the handler. Many think that it is unfair to both the man and the dog, and one officer in Ohio has decided to do something about it.
With the help of community members, one Ohio police officer was determined to have his K-9 partner retire with him. Matt Hickey, a former police officer for the Marietta, Ohio Police Department was afraid that his K-9 companion, Ajax, was going to be auctioned off after he retired. A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money to purchase Ajax, but as it turns out the money was not needed.
When Hickey retired he was told that Ajax still had many years of service left, and because he belonged to the police department he was public property. Therefore, the dog had to be auctioned to the highest bidder, like all other public property, instead of being able to go home with him. After working with the K-9 for four years, Hickey wasn’t going to give up without a fight.
The mayor of Marietta, Joe Matthew, said that he would have loved to have sent the dog home with his handler. I’m sure most folks involved in the situation felt the same way too. Unfortunately, it would have been a breach of state law to allow that to happen.
Hickey was outraged and complained publicly, attracting the attention of local media and many members of the community. The GoFundMe page was started, and as of last week it had raised more than $70,000.
The GoFundMe stated that Hickey could have kept the dog if he had taken a position as an auxiliary officer, essentially a volunteer officer, but Hickey couldn’t take that offer due to unidentified health concerns. Thankfully, a state administrative rule, discovered by City Law Director Paul Bertram, stated that Hickey could purchase the dog without Ajax having to be put up for auction.
After Bertram checked with the appropriate authority figures, he was able to call Hickey and explain that he could purchase the dog…for just $1. The law states that Hickey can buy the piece of public property, in this case Ajax, but it doesn’t specify how much needs to be charged for the item. Hickey officially bought Ajax on Thursday, February 4, 2016.
Every good story deserves a happy ending, right? And this story seems to have a very joyful ending, but it gets even better. According to the GoFundPage, the additional proceeds (that’s more than $70,000) will go to Vested Interest in K9’s, an organization that provides stab and bullet protective vests for dogs working in law enforcement.
Some police K-9 handlers may not be able to take their canine companions with them when they retire for personal reasons, but I believe that all retiring handlers should have the same opportunity that Hickey did. It’s definitely a hard adjustment for the officer, as they have formed a bond with their partner.
It’s also a huge adjustment for the dog. They’ve learned to work side-by-side with their handler and they’ll have to learn a new style and adjust to working with a new handler. Not only will that mean that the K-9 officer will be out of commission for a little while, but the new team may not be as compatible as the old one – making the dog less effective at performing his duties.