**UPDATE February 4, 2016**
The last update on the status of Ajax and retired Officer Hickey stated that the Marietta Police Department had offered him an auxiliary position in order to keep his dog. He would be united with Ajax free of charge. As of this afternoon, Hickey is no longer required to accept the position, and has purchased Ajax for $1. The two will retire together.
Hickey tells WTDN:
I’m speechless and I’m so very grateful. There’s no way I can thank everybody. I’m so thankful and relieved.
Under a revised section of the law, the officer of a “disbanded canine unit” may purchase the dog for $1. It was understood at first that this did not apply to the pair, but because Hickey and Ajax were in fact disbanded, the law is in effect.
**UPDATE February 3, 2016**
After police K9 Ajax was set to be auctioned off rather than retire with his handler, people everywhere demanded they stay together. Well their voices were definitely heard, because now State Senator Lou Gentile has announced legislation to prevent this from happening again.
He stated in a press release on Tuesday:
We recognize the close bond that exists between law enforcement officers and their K9 partners. Officers and their dogs spend every day together, risking their lives to protect our communities. They should be given the option to spend retirement together, but unfortunately state law is standing in the way.
The new law would allow retiring officers to purchase “at fair market value” the dog or horse they worked with, rather than have the animal auctioned to the highest bidder.
“There was a flaw in state law that prevented Marietta from taking necessary action to resolve this issue,” the senator said, “and this bill will fix that.” The legislation will require approval from both the city and law enforcement, and is currently being drafted. It should be introduced to the state of Ohio very soon.
**UPDATE February 1, 2016**
After a hailstorm of outrage over the decision to auction off police dog Ajax to the highest bidder, the city of Marietta, Ohio has arranged for retired Officer Matt Hickey to keep him at no charge.
At the conclusion of a meeting with Police Chief Rodney Hupp and the city’s council members, an auxiliary program was reinstated so that Ajax could remain with Hickey as an auxiliary officer. Hupp claims that city officials were searching for a way to keep Ajax with his family all along, especially amid an influx of emails from several thousand people.
According to The Athens Messenger, Hupp said at a news conference:
At a time in our nation’s history when support for law enforcement has fallen to a low not seen in decades, the outpouring of support for a former canine police officer, Matt Hickey, and his canine partner, Ajax, is the one bright spot in the frenzy surrounding this issue. From around the country and even the globe, an onslaught of outrage has been heaped against the city for the perceived injustice of separating a retiring canine officer from his canine partner.
Because Ajax was not at “retirement” age, the city could not simply sell him to Hickey. Had the K9 officer been near the end of his career, the situation would have been different, but the city was forced to find an alternate solution.
Hupp insists, however, that former officer Hickey neglected to de-escalate the situation after they had established a plan for Ajax. Hupp said:
At every juncture, former officer Hickey chose to omit that he and I had a plan for K9 Ajax’s future and that the resolution kept Ajax with Hickey at no cost to him […] [H]e had an opportunity to tell the truth and diffuse the situation and to explain that the city he served was not composed of or lead by cold, heartless and greedy people.
Hickey also informed attendees at a news conference on Monday, February 1st, that he had yet to hear if he would get to keep Ajax until days after the original discussion. The important thing is that the two have the opportunity to stay with each other forever, as they were always meant to.
The GoFundMe account created for Hickey’s auction funds has soared to nearly $68,000, and states that any excess (now the full amount) will go toward ballistic vests for police dogs.
A police officer’s bond with his K9 is something few can understand. It’s more than the bond of “man’s best friend.” It’s a bond that’s about trusting your entire life to someone in the deadliest of situations. It’s a bond that should never have to be broken.
Former Marietta, Ohio Police Officer Matt Hickey had every intention of taking his K9 partner, Ajax, with him when he retired. To him, his K9 partner is a member of the family. He didn’t want to leave him behind.
Officials in Marietta, Ohio don’t see it that way.
The dog is a property of the city of Marietta. It is treated just like it was if it was a shovel. That’s just the way it is.
Matt was aware that the officials held this belief, which is why he offered to pay the city $3,500 for the dog. On the day that he retired, with the money in hand, the city refused to allow him to keep his heroic best friend.
Officials told him they were going to auction off the six-year-old dog to the highest bidder. Anyone who is currently in, or retired from, law enforcement can bid on Ajax. People who train working dogs can also bid on the dog.
Matt is terrified that someone will outbid him and he and Ajax will be separated forever.
He has created a GoFundMe account to help him raise funds for the auction. In the comments, retired police officers and dog trainers sounded off about the city’s actions.
Retired Officer Ronnie Fusco said:
When I retired I had to pay for my K9 partner. She was $1.00, because being “government” property they couldn’t just give her away …. Its very sad but was lucky …Officer Hickey should be afforded this same opportunity, at the very least ALL other bidders abstain.
The GoFundMe page has raised over $16,000. All funds that Matt does not use for the auction will go toward providing ballistic vests for K9 officers. There is also a Change.org petition to help keep the pair together.
Learn more about the story in the news report below:
h/t ABC23 News.