Retiring officers would be able to purchase their canine or equine counterparts, under legislation passed by the Ohio Senate this week.
SB 271 passed on a vote of 27-0 and heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
The legislation included an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately upon enactment.
But the Ohio House would have to act on the bill in coming days to finalize the law changes this session; otherwise, the bill would have to be reintroduced next year.
SB 271 would allow officers who retire in good standing to purchase, for fair market value, the police dog or horse assigned to them. Under existing law, those animals could be assigned to other officers if they are still fit for duty.
"The law was not clear in Ohio," said Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville), primary sponsor of the legislation. He added, "Our bill simply establishes a way for a retiring officer to purchase his or her canine partner at fair market value with the approval from the local law enforcement agency."
He added, "We wanted to establish a law that allows [officers] and their canine partners to stay together after retirement."
Under continuing law, active officers can still purchase their retiring canine units for a dollar, Gentile said.
The legislation was offered by Gentile in response to a situation in Marietta earlier this year, when a retiring officer, Matt Hickey, faced the possible separation from his accompanying police dog.
Hickey, who spoke during the Senate's Agriculture Committee hearing a day before the floor vote, testified: "The bond between handler and dog is strong and unique. To suddenly try to end that relationship could be harmful for both the officer and the dog, as well as the department served, so it is necessary that there be a clear way, in state law, for an officer to purchase his or her K9."
He added in testimony, "A lot of work goes into training and working a law enforcement K9 by the handlers. A unique bond is made between the K9 and the handler, which is hard to break even by the death of the K9. It is important to that K9 and handler have the opportunity to stay together."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.