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Ohio officer rejects volunteer job to keep K-9 partner

| Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, 7:06 p.m.

MARIETTA, Ohio — A recently retired police officer says he has rejected an offer from the southeastern Ohio city where he worked that would allow him to keep his K-9 partner, Ajax, if he agrees to work on a volunteer basis, according to news media reports.

Matt Hickey had offered $3,500 to buy Ajax, but Marietta officials rejected that deal, saying they would have to follow the law and sell the dog at auction because Ajax was city property and could still work.

Once Hickey complained publicly, the community came together to raise money so he could purchase Ajax. As of Tuesday, a GoFundMe page has raised more than $71,500 to pay for Ajax at auction.

They said they never intended to separate Hickey from his former canine partner, and Mayor Joe Matthews said the city council would meet Thursday night to authorize a resolution that would allow Hickey to keep the dog if he joined the auxiliary police.

Hickey said he can't join the Marietta auxiliary police because he retired in January out of health concerns and hasn't worked since July because of neck and shoulder injuries.

Ohio law allows officers to purchase their K-9 partners for $1 when the dogs are retired. But it also says an officer who leaves a law enforcement agency while a canine or equine partner is still fit for duty forfeits the right to buy the animal.

“Officer Hickey came in when he retired and wanted to buy the dog right then, but we couldn't do it,” Matthews told NBC News. “It's impossible. I would have loved to, but the state law won't allow us.”

State Sen. Lou Gentile, a Democrat from Steubenville, has said he plans to introduce legislation to change the law.

“Officers and their dogs spend every day together, risking their lives to protect our communities,” Gentile said in a statement. “They should be given the option to spend retirement together, but unfortunately, state law is standing in the way.”

A phone number for Hickey could not be found. City officials did not immediately respond to messages left for comment Wednesday.

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