My home town made national news this last weekend over the disposition of one of their K9 officers, Ajax. The dog’s handler is taking a medical retirement. But the dog has only been on the force for four years, and realistically has several years of use left.
The problem is that it takes time for a dog to bond to a new handler, or for both of them to forge the trust that it takes for a K9 team to serve effectively. Does this dog have that much time left? I don’t know about K9 service life, so I can’t say.
When the news started breaking last week, we learned that Officer Hickey had offered to buy the dog, and the city was forced to refuse his offer, because the dog still had a useful service life. Ajax became surplus property at that point, and Ohio law says that surplus property over a certain value has to be auctioned.
As I write this, it appears things have been worked out, but I’m wondering how someone can be an auxiliary police officer if they can’t meet the requirements for fulltime duty.
And don’t get me started on the quality of the reporting of this story.
But is Ajax really surplus property?
Ohio Revised Code 2921.321 codifies the offense of assaulting a police animal. Depending on the exact circumstances, it can range from a second degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. That’s a big difference from the penalty for damaging a police cruiser (2909.05, for example).
It seems to me that if we’re going to treat a police animal as an officer, we need to reexamine the way we handle the end of that animal’s service. But if we’re going to treat that animal as property, then we need to revisit what happens when you harm that property. Ohio seems to want it both ways, and that’s not right.