MARIETTA, Ohio (WCMH) — A Marietta police officer who retired earlier this week wants his partner to retire with him. Instead, the city says Ajax, his K-9 partner for the last four years, will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Officer Matthew Hickey retired on Monday after serving 30 years in law enforcement. He wanted to Ajax to retire with him, but the city told him that wouldn’t be possible.
News quickly spread in the small community, and they started a GoFundMe account, which initially raised $3,500 – the amount Officer Hickey was told Ajax was worth.
“I had the money for the dog and was ready to hand it to the the chief of police, and the chief of police said he couldn’t take it,” Hickey said.
The city says it is just following state law. Ohio state code 9.62 states that officers are allowed to purchase their K-9 partners when the dog is retired for just $1. But Ajax isn’t the one retiring in this case.
“Another section of this particular law that says if a law enforcement officer leaves the unit, and in this situation, Officer Hickey is leaving the unit,” explained Paul Bertram, City of Marietta Law Director, “That particular section says that the officer forfeits the right to purchase the dog, under this provision.
A law enforcement officer who leaves an equine or canine unit of a law enforcement agency while the police dog or horse assigned to the officer is still fit for duty forfeits the right to purchase the animal under this section. -Code 9.62
Ajax is still a healthy police dog and is active on the force, so he’s considered a valuable piece of the city’s property. State law dictates because of his worth, the dog must be put up for auction.
“This particular unit, this particular dog, out of the unit, state and federal money may have been used,” said Bertram. “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.”
Many angry residents across Ohio went to Marietta’s official Facebook page to sound off on the decision. The city responded saying:
Your voices are being heard and your comments are important. All posts that have been received have been passed on; however, Facebook is not the best way to reach those officials who are making decisions regarding retired Officer Hickey and K-9 Ajax. To ensure that your comments are heard, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
“I think we need to start at the state and get legislation passed to where officers that retire in good standing gets the k-9, either medically or if they have their time in when they retire they get the dog, either for a dollar or whatever,” Hickey told WTAP-TV. “There is a bond between us and it’s very special and I would hate to lose my buddy.”
A GoFundMe page set up to help buy Ajax has raised more than $24,000 as of Saturday. The page says excess funds will go toward buying protective vests for other K9 officers. Residents say they hope to raise enough money to help Hickey beat out any other potential bidders.
The bidding process starts next week and will take several weeks to complete. Marietta officials say they’ll only allow a police officer, active or retired, or a trainer of police dogs to bid on Ajax.