UPDATE: Company receives 65k for K9 vests

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MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) UPDATE 3/31/2016 4:20 PM

A GoFundMe account was started to raise money for retired officer, Matt Hickey to keep his partner, Ajax.

When only one dollar of that money was needed to keep the best friends together, Hickey announced that the money would be going to Vested Interest in K9's, based out of Massachusettes, to buy bullet proof vests for police dogs.

That money is finally in Vested Interest's hands.

More than $65,000 was raised, which means 62 law enforcement dogs will get protection.

UPDATE 2/9/2016 3:55 PM

Retired Officer Hickey says all of the money raised from the GoFundMe would be going to a non-profit charity to provide bullet proof vests for other k-9's.

The Massachusetts company is called Vested Interest in K9's Inc.

It is a charity that provides bullet and stab protective vests to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the country.

Each donation of $1,050 makes it possible to provide a vest to one k-9 in the United States.

"Funds that are sent into us are people fundraising, or we host our own events or corporate sponsors. There's no contribution from the department. Officer Hickey and Ajax are going to stay together, which was the ultimate goal and it expanded into this amazing other need to help more k-9's. In the month of January, eight k-9's lost their life in the line of duty, so this is going to allow us to protect at least 65 working dogs," says President and Founder of Vested Interest in K9's Inc, Sandy Marcal.

More than $72,000 has been raised on the GoFundMe page so far and people still continue to donate.

All but eight percent of that total will be going to Vested Interest in K9's.

UPDATE: 2/5/2016 5:25 P.M.

Marietta's "K9 controversy" is over.

Now, the police department looks to eventually replace "Ajax", now retired along with the police sergeant who successfully sought to keep him.

But there are bigger issues.

The department has a total of six positions, mainly patrol officers, to fill.

Some left to join other departments or organizations. Others were promoted to replace retiring sergeants.

That included the promotion of Greg Nohe, to replace retired Capt. Jeff Waite.

Four patrolmen actually have been hired, but are going through

Required training and won't be on the force until later this year.

"One-sixth of the department has turned over," says Police Chief Rodney Hupp. "We have a lot of new people we're training, and it has us pretty well strapped in terms of maintaining minimum manpower on the street. And that's the situation I'm anticipating being in for at least the next six to eight months."

With "Ajax"'s retirement, the department still has one K-9 unit.

Chief Hupp intends to eventually bring in another.

But aside from the expense of getting another dog, there's a training requirement for the officer.

UPDATE 2/4/16 3:49 PM

Marietta City officials have released a press release, outlining and detailing the way they'll be able to release Ajax into Hickey's care.

You can read it by clicking on the "Law Director Statement- Ajax" under "Documents," which is next to this article.

UPDATE 2/4/16 2:52 PM

Marietta City officials say they've found a way for retired officer Matt Hickey and his canine partner, Ajax, to stay together.

UPDATE 2/3/16 2:53 PM

The law director for the City of Marietta is pitching a plan to help retired Marietta Police Department officer Matt Hickey keep his canine partner, Ajax.

Paul Bertam, law director for the City of Marietta, says the plan involves another agency, but he can't disclose any more details because it's still being discussed.

He says he plans to talk to Hickey about it Wednesday evening.

He says it will not be presented at City Council Thursday because the plan is still developing.

UPDATE 2/2/2016 6:15PM

It's obvious that this situation with k-9 Ajax has sparked a lot of emotions from all parties involved and that was apparent at Monday's press conference.

Now lawmakers are saying that they are working to do something about it.

State Representative, Andy Thompson, tells me that they are working to make an amendment to House Bill 60 to include a provision for police dogs and their handlers.

The bill currently creates a standard for knowingly and willingly harming an animal.

The goal would be for the handler to acquire the animal for one dollar upon leaving the force.

In addition, Thompson says they are working to harmonize state and federal law regarding penalties for knowingly and willingly harming a police animal.

"We do really want to address this issue, no doubt about it. These animals are unique and they have a special bond with the officers that they work with, so we want to make sure we have a common sense approach that makes it easier for villages, cities and political subdivisions to resolve this issue," says Thompson.

He says that whichever approach they can go with quicker and more effectively will be the one they proceed with.

Retired officer Matt Hickey has declined the offer to become an auxiliary member of the Marietta Police Department.

Marietta Police Chief Rodney Hupp says they have people working around the clock to figure out a solution for k-9 Ajax.

UPDATE 2/1/16 4:13 PM

The full press conference from 2:00 p.m. Monday about Ajax the K-9 is posted in this article.

UPDATE 2/1/16 3:11 PM

The Marietta Police Department has released a press release about the current situation with retired officer Matt Hickey and Ajax the K-9.

You can view it in full by clicking on the document under "Related Documents" next to this article.

UPDATE 2/1/16 2:18 PM

During a press conference, City of Marietta officials announce retired officer Matt Hickey would be allowed to keep Ajax the K-9 on certain conditions.

Hickey would have to be an auxiliary member of the Marietta Police Department. Officials say that way, Hickey would be able to remain as Ajax's handler.

It's yet to be determined if that course of action will be taken by Hickey.

UPDATE 2/1/2016 9:25 AM

MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - Officials from the City of Marietta announce a press conference regarding what they call the "disposition of Police K-9 Ajax".

The release from the mayor's office says the conference will be held at 2 p.m.

We're sending a reporter and we're streaming the conference LIVE here at thenewscenter.tv.

Follow this link to watch the press conference: http://www.thenewscenter.tv/livestream

UPDATE: 1/31/16 5:50PM
MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP)- The "Go Fund Me" account for Ajax, the k-9 from the Marietta Police Department, has reached more than forty-five thousand dollars.

Ajax's owner, Matt Hickey, retired from the Marietta Police Department just last week. But because of a state law, the city says his k-9 partner of several years can't join him.

They've appraised ajax at thirty-five hundred dollars and are putting him up for auction as city property.

A "Go Fund Me" page has raised thousands of dollars for hickey to purchase Ajax. As the story makes national headlines, Hickey says the support pouring in from across the country is overwhelming.

"The outpouring of the response to this is tremendous. I cannot say enough and of course I wish I could thank each and every one of them of course and I can't. But hopefully this gets out to them and tells them that we really do appreciate what's going on," said Hickey.

The auction date for Ajax has not yet been set. Hickey hopes to use the money raised from the "Go Fund Me" account to be the highest bidder.

He also hopes this story will bring more attention to the laws that prevent police officers from keeping their k-9's.

Officer Matthew Hickey retired, but his partner of nearly four years will not be retiring with him.

Ajax the canine will be put up for auction as he is the city's property, according to state law.

Upon finding this out at last night's Marietta council meeting, one man took it upon himself to start a GoFundMe account to raise money so that Officer Hickey can bid on the dog for himself...

Officer Hickey served in law enforcement for 30 years and just retired on January 25.

He says that once he found out that the dog would be sold for $3,500 he offered to pay for the dog when he was then turned down because of state law.

Officer Hickey says that there are bigger problems in the world, but he is grateful for the support and hopes that something can be done at the state level about the situation.

"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. There is a bond between us and it's very special and I would hate to lose my buddy," says Hickey.

Hickey says that several officers with canines have contacted him worried that this is going to set the precedent, but state law states that the auction process is how this must be handled.

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