An Ohio cop is retiring from the police force after 30 years and would like to enjoy his retirement with his K-9 partner, Ajax. Unfortunately, the town won’t let him buy the dog and is instead auctioning the animal to the highest bidder.
As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, Marietta police officer Matthew Hickey and his K-9 partner, Ajax, have developed a close bond during the four years they’ve been working together. Due to medical reasons, Hickey is retiring from the force, and he wants Ajax to retire along with him.
However, as far as city officials in Marietta (a southeast Ohio community of about 14,000 people) are concerned, it’s not that simple.
Ajax is considered a “police asset.” It cost money to buy him, train him, and care for him, and for that reason he — like all police dogs — comes with a price tag. And Ohio law has rules when it comes to how police assets — and that includes dogs — are handled once they’re no longer needed.
Under Ohio law, Hickey could theoretically buy his partner for $1. Cops can buy their K-9 partners — when the animals are retired. But Ajax is young and has more good years as a police officer left in him, so he’s not being retired. But since Hickey is the only cop on the Marietta force who is licensed to handle a police dog, once he’s gone, the city won’t be able to use him anymore, and he’ll have to be sold.
Hickey offered to buy his K-9 friend, at a pretty steep cost: $3,500. With cash in hand, Hickey went to his chief and offered to make everything kosher.
“I had the money for the dog and was ready to hand it to the chief of police, but the chief of police said he couldn’t take it.”
The problem is that Ohio law says that a retiring officer forfeits the right to buy his partner — K-9 or equine — if the animal is still fit for duty.
For Marietta and Ajax, that means Ajax is going to auction. And whoever buys him has to be licensed to handle a police dog. That means the dog may very well be going to a different department altogether.
Paul Bertram, City of Marietta Law Director, tells Cleveland NBC affiliate WCMH that the town’s hands are tied.
“This particular unit, this particular dog, out of the unit, state and federal money may have been used. Therefore, we are under strict rules of how we dispose of property when we’re dealing with state and federal funds, as well as taxpayer dollars.”
The news of Hickey and Ajax’s plight has not sat well with the people of Marietta. Once this story went viral, the City of Marietta’s Facebook page was flooded with comments about the injustice of the situation. It got so bad that at one point, a message posted from the town asked commenters to send their comments to a specific email address. As of this writing, it appears that some commenters are ignoring those instructions.
“You cannot take this dog away from the retiring officer. If you auction this dog, you do not know who will take him. He may be mistreated, kept outside, not love. The officer and his dog are loving each other, they are family. If you separated them, they both will be unhappy and hurt. Rules are good, but there are cases where they are inhuman. Please leave these 2 together.”
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Hickey, with the hopes that a licensed police dog handler will buy Ajax and reunite him with his friend. The page’s initial goal was $3,500; as of this writing, the page has raised over $40,000.
Do you think Officer Hickey should be allowed to purchase his K-9 partner so the two can enjoy retirement together? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/John Roman Images]