On Saturday, social media blew up when Huffpost reported that a retiring officer would not be allowed to adopt his K9 partner of three years. K9 Officer Ajax has lived with that partner, Matt Hickey, a police officer in Marietta, Ohio, spending every day together during that time. Officer Hickey retired this week, and offered the city $3,000, the amount he was told the dog was worth, to purchase Ajax. And the city turned him down, telling Hickey that Ajax would be sold at auction to the highest bidder. Hickey would be allowed to bid, but he worried someone would outbid him for his beloved companion.
According to Ohio law, a police dog’s handler can purchase the animal for just $1 if the dog gets too old for K9 duty, or if the dog becomes sick or injured. But if the officer leaves the force while the dog “is still fit for duty,” as is the case with Ajax, that officer “forfeits” the right to directly buy the animal. Hickey was crushed. “Ajax is a family member, one of my children,” he stated.
Initially the Mayor of Marietta stated that there was nothing they could do. Events would have to simply play out. And that’s when social media took hold. This GoFundMe was posted on January 28, entitled “Help Officer Hickey Keep Ajax”, with the initial goal being the $3,500 Hickey expected he would need to purchase Ajax. Once people heard that his initial offer was denied by the city, NBC reported that in just two days, over $33,000 had been raised to assist Hickey in purchasing his partner. The fundraiser states, “Any funds that are left over after bidding on Ajax will be donated to a K9 fund to purchase bullet resistant vests for our Law Enforcement Officers furry partners.”
After 34 years of his serving their city, 14,000 residents wanted to pay their respects to Officer Hickey, and began a campaign on the city of Marietta’s Facebook page. The city responded on January 29, stating,
“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.”
No date has yet been set for Ajax’s auction. Potential buyers will submit sealed bids which will be opened on a certain date, and bidders will have a chance to increase their bids. The Mayor has stipulated that all bidders must be someone who is a dog handler and familiar with K9’s. Donors to the GoFundMe and comments on the webpage reflect the same hope, that no one else will bid on his dog, and Hickey will be able to take his partner home.
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