CIRCLEVILLE — Following petitions and inquiries from the community, Circleville City Council made its decision in regards to potentially reuniting K9 Harry and his former partner with the police department, Robert Morningstar.
A petition was circulated in the community and on social media for Morningstar to be reunited with Harry following his resignation from the city and starting at the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office. A change.org petition that was circulated had more than 80,000 signatures including many from out of state.
Since that time K9 Harry was sent to Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania for training and has been boarded at the training facility since Morningstar left the department.
On Morningstar’s last day with the city, Jan. 14, Safety Forces Director Tony Chamberlain drafted a tentative agreement pending City Council’s approval to sell the dog to Morningstar. Chamberlain and Morningstar signed that document. Per that agreement, if council did not approve, K9 Harry would be returned to the city within 48 hours of the city’s decision.
Council spent about 20 minutes of their meeting, the bulk of their council meeting, discussing the matter, eventually voting down a motion by Barry Keller to potentially try to find some sort of agreement with the Pickaway County Commissioners and Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office for discussion on potentially allowing Harry to work for the Sheriff’s Office but provide service to the city. That motion was voted down five to two with Council members Barry Keller and Sheri Theis being the only two yes votes.
When prompted by Council, Circleville Mayor Don McIlroy offered the administration’s opinion on K9 Harry.
“We think the best thing to do is to get the dog back on the streets as quickly as possible and it appears as we can do that as quickly as next week,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s important that we have our own dog, especially in a time we’re going through a lot of drug activity. The sooner we get that dog onto the streets the sooner we can protect our citizens from these drugs.”
Council member Katie Logan Hedges shared information from the kennel including costs of buying a new dog versus retraining K9 Harry with a new handler. To buy a new dog would be at least $13,000 versus approximately $1,300 to $1,500 to retrain K9 Harry to a new handler. Logan said in speaking with the owner at Shallow Creek Kennel, a new dog could be on the streets later this year but with a trainer to be trained with K9 Harry he could return to the streets by the end of next week.
Hedges said according to the Shallow Creek Kennel, K9 Harry has at least five years of service left and an new dog you could expect six to eight years of service.
“I think unfortunately we have to look at Harry as a tool and not as a pet which is an unfortunate thing because I think the family obviously loves the dog,” she stated. “It’s a tough situation there’s no doubt about that.”
Council member Michelle Blanton asked if the agreement that was made would be null and void if the council chose to do a different situation.
“When that was drafted we didn’t have information as to what we could legally do in regards to selling Harry to Morningstar. I drafted that basically; identified that we were waiting on information from Law Director Gary Kenworthy’s office and if we needed council’s approve that we would have to get that,” Chamberlain said.