February 1 Update:
During a press conference held today, the City of Marietta announced retired officer Matt Hickey will be allowed to keep Ajax.
The city will keep Hickey on as an auxiliary member of the Marietta Police Department. Through this legal loophole, Hickey will be able to remain as Ajax’s handler.
Over $60,000 was raised in a crowdfunding effort to help Hickey pay for his dog. Organizers of the campaign have said that the money will be used for bullet proof vests for police dogs.
Ohio police officer Matthew Hickey retired on Monday, and wanted to retire his K9 partner — an 80-pound German shepherd named Ajax — along with him. The city of Marietta was in agreement, and initially offered to sell the dog to Hickey for $3,500.
— Excuses Won’t (@MoxieWill) January 30, 2016
The high price tag was due to the fact that Ajax is only 5-years-old, and still in prime working condition.
Hickey served 34 years on the police force. If his dog would have been old enough to retire with him, according to Ohio code 9.62, Ajax could be sold to Hickey for $1.00.
But the state of Ohio requires that a police K9 must continue on the job until retirement age. Therefore, Ajax must be made available to other handlers who may be able to use him. Marietta was forced to rescind its offer. Ajax will be placed up for auction at a starting price of $3,500.
According to NBC News, Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews said his hands are tied.
“Officer Hickey came in when he retired and wanted to buy the dog right then, but we couldn’t do it. It’s impossible. I would have loved to, but the state law won’t allow us.”
He added that the dog would not be available to the general public for bidding. “It has to be someone who is a dog handler and familiar with K9 dogs. I wish the state would change that law.”
The city has another working K9, so they do not need a second dog. There is currently no other officer qualified to handle Ajax.
In one sense, it may be a good thing that Ajax is not taken for granted. A dog with potential to be a K9 officer is a rare find. Police dogs historically have run the gamut of breeds, including Rottweilers, Dobermans, Giant Schnauzers. Some of the scent detection dogs are used for nose work and tasks that don’t require having to bite. For these, just about any breed with a good work ethic and a strong play drive — who can respond to a ball as a reward — can be a likely candidate. But most K9 units in all states employ breeds that are versatile enough to do it all. These boil down to the athletic and wiry Belgian Malinois, and the ever-reliable German shepherd.
A police dog’s training requires months of work. Most K9 officers have to be proficient in many areas. These include the following.
- Basic and Advanced Obedience
- Evidence Article Search
- Narcotic odor recognition
- Handler independent alert
- Criminal Apprehension
- Handler Protection
- Area Search
- Building Search
The training is expensive. An average police dog easily has $3,500 invested into him, and usually more.
The story has spread throughout the small community. Friends started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Hickey and Ajax.
Response has been generous, but there is plenty of outrage.
“Ajax doesn’t belong to the PD — he belongs to the tax payers, who already paid for him once. He needs to be retired with his handler. This shows exactly how much Marietta city officials respect their police officers as well as well as what they think of animals. Disgraceful!”
“The dog served as a police officer protecting the people. The dog should be given a retirement he deserved, in the loving home of his handler.”
“The referenced Ohio Revised Code doesn’t address the situation where a handler isn’t merely leaving the K-9 unit, but is retiring from duty altogether.”
The campaign has been noticed on a worldwide scale, with over 35 thousand hits. As of today, it has raised over $50,000. The creator of the campaign, Corey Orr, responded.
“… extra funds will be given to an organization that provides bullet/stab proof vests to K9 units, since there has been a spike in K9 officers being killed in the line of duty.”
Some say it’s absurd to put a price tag on a bond between working partners. Apparently, over 2000 people agree.
[Image via Shutterstock]