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Ohio officer, family ‘heartbroken’ after not being allowed to keep K-9 partner after transfer

K-9 Igor will not be transferring departments with Chad Hagan, his handler of five years

Shaker Heights police officer devastated by city’s refusal to let him keep K-9 partner

“A city police officer who leaves the city’s canine unit while the police dog assigned to the officer is still fit for duty forfeits the right to purchase the animal under this section,” a city ordinance says.

Shaker Heights Police Department via Facebook

By Molly Walsh

CLEVELAND — The break-up between man and dog has hit Shaker Heights police, as an officer’s departure has caused a difficult separation.

Chad Hagan, a seven-year officer, had to part with his K-9 partner because he is transferring to another department. In November, Hagan turned in his resignation to Wayne Hudson, the city’s chief.

Hagan had worked with the dog since 2018.

His last day is Sunday. He was ordered to take his partner, Igor, to the Beacon Hill Kennel, a boarding facility in Parma, on Nov. 29 . A similar dispute happened in Bedford Heights last summer, when an officer was forced to give back his dog. They were reunited days later.

In Shaker Heights, Hagan had hoped to buy the 6-year-old German shepherd, offering $10,000 for it. But the city says it has no authority to sell the animal.

“A city police officer who leaves the city’s canine unit while the police dog assigned to the officer is still fit for duty forfeits the right to purchase the animal under this section,” a city ordinance says.

Danielle Hagan, the officer’s wife, said the family is heartbroken.

“I’ve only seen my husband cry one other time when his dad passed away. He is devastated,” she said.

Chad Hagan declined to be interviewed, as he is still employed by Shaker Heights. He will be sworn in as an officer at his new department Monday, but the family declined to say which one.

Hudson offered Hagan the option to stay two more years with the department and then permit Igor to retire. Hagan decided to change police departments to be closer to his home in Brunswick with his wife and 1-year-old daughter.

“He has nearly an hour commute for every shift. He just wanted to do what’s best for his family,” his wife said.

According to police, Hagan complained that Igor was taken away from him unnecessarily early.

“While his last day with the Shaker Heights Police Department is Dec. 10, he has taken three vacation days since tendering his resignation. He is not scheduled to work from December 8 through December 10,” the city said in a statement. “The SHPD did not want to have to retrieve Igor when Officer Hagan was no longer a city employee.”

Danielle Hagan said Igor could be eligible to retire in the next eight months when he is 7.

“He’s part of our family,” she said while holding back sobs. “Igor is with Chad everywhere. They go to work together. They come home together. They are best friends, and we love him. I can’t even describe the heartbreak we all feel.”

An online petition had more than 600 signatures to “Bring K-9 Igor Home” as of Friday afternoon.

The city denied the request because Igor has “an expected three or four years of service before likely retirement,” a statement from the city said.

Purchasing a new police dog can cost $8,500 to $13,000, depending on the breed and what the dog is trained to perform, the city said.

“Sending a dog and handler to the initial six-week training course costs approximately $7,200,” the city said. “Ongoing training costs every year are also significant and can involve expenses for travel, hotel, and paying overtime to officers who fill in for the handlers who are away at training courses.”

In July, Ryan Kaetzel, a now-former Bedford Heights police officer, was also forced to give back his K-9 partner, Bosco, after Kaetzel moved to Strongsville’s police department. Kaetzel and Bosco were reunited days later after community members supported the city giving the animal back to the officer.

Shaker Heights, in a statement, said the police chief is following the requirements of the law and acting in the best interests of the residents to protect the investment made in the police dog.

“While Chief Hudson is empathetic to Officer Hagan and his family’s feelings about Igor, Officer Hagan understood when he became a K-9 officer, as do all K-9 officers, that the dogs they work with are a highly trained integral part of the Shaker Heights Police Department that provide a service in protecting the community,” the city’s statement said.

“It is the responsibility and priority of the chief and the city’s administration to protect the safety of the citizens of the city. Any attack on the judgment and character of the chief on this issue is unwarranted and unjust.”

Police1 readers respond

  • Both sides are wrong in this. The officer obviously didn’t investigate the department’s policy on separation of service for the K9s. He also could have “toughed” it out another year and gotten the dog. Not everyone has the luxury of living next door to the police force. The department obviously isn’t going to reassign the K9 to another partner. The officer’s family is the only one the animal has known its entire life. They were offered the value of their “equipment.” Great way to treat your “equipment.” They should probably be sued for animal cruelty!! Their best bet to save face would be to sell the animal to the officer’s current department. As for the city manager. " We don’t have the right to sell the K9.” Just who owns the K9 if not the city? If not the city, who has the right to sell the K9?
  • I’m not going to criticize the police chief for this decision to not allow officer Hagan to keep his K9 of many years, Igor. He’s just following the current protocol. However, the chief should start talks with the city officials to change the law. This dog is old enough to retire and should not be separated from his handler. Show some wisdom and compassion so this doesn’t keep happening.
  • Bad judgment and I don’t see how this denial can be justified. This dog is bonded to this officer and some things in life can’t be relegated by whether or not it’s a commodity or a resource. Now the dog is going to be boarded? Maybe it’s time your work takes on robots instead of creatures who think intellectually and have feelings. Can’t blast the judgment of this chief? Well, consider it blasted. I was an MP in the military so I’m not ignorant or new to LE. I have also been doing Doberman rescue since the 70s. I know what I speak and this is cruel and unnecessary. Again move to robots, maybe with officers as well. This world is becoming inhuman anyway. Hope you catch a lot of flak on this one and are forced to rethink this decision. It’s not like another new recruit couldn’t start over with a newly trained dog as the cost is being covered by the outgoing officer. I’m so tired of hearing rules are rules and policy isn’t renegotiable. It usually is when it comes to money and politics. How about the wellbeing of the dog and the officer? I’m so mad I can’t see straight.
  • If it means anything, take a look at X under the hashtag #savek9igor. We respectfully say that our tax dollars purchased Igor and we are willing to purchase another to take his place. A GoFUNDME has already been started. Igor has been with the Hagan’s since he was 1. Now at 6-1/2, he’s yanked away from the only family he’s known. Forced to sit in a dog pound. He is sad, depressed, wondering what he did wrong. This is profound cruelty and Igor will never be the same even with a new handler. Shaker Heights has made a very bad decision for the mental health of a supposed k9 officer.
  • Keeping Igor in a kennel is cruel punishment. The Chief of Police has essentially told the officer: “Stay two more years and then you can have the dog.” The Chief’s boss needs to step in and make this right. The bad PR is not going to go away, and the city doesn’t need it to continue.
  • I am saddened and disheartened by the situation of Igor and the City of Shaker Heights. It is ridiculous for the dog to be sitting in a kennel. The dog is being punished. He does not understand why he is being kenneled. He should be with his family. The outpouring of financial offers to buy a new police dog for the city and to pay for training has been substantial. Igor is close to retirement age and should be allowed to retire with Chad or go work with him in Berea.
  • I just read about the Shaker Heights story about the K9 officer Igor and his problem. Unfortunately, the dog doesn’t understand the antiquated city code. This kind of thing will affect the dog’s ability to function properly, period. These animals are highly intelligent but they also have emotions. The trust and bonding they have with the handler is crucial to their performance. Dogs that are grieving will not be at full response readiness ability. In the article, it seemed that the dog will have between 8 months and at most 24 months of service left before retirement. The 10,000 dollars the handler officer has offered is surely more than a proration of its remaining value! These policies are based on the belief that a canine is just a piece of equipment. I hope there’s enough public outcry to allow the dog to retire and be adopted by its former handler. There should be a change to the policy as well.
  • Please consider giving Igor to the Hagen family. If you understand dogs and the affect this will have on him, you would immediately give him to the Hagen family. I understand he worked with the department however he has been with Mr. Hagen and the family since he was 1. This is the family he knows, loves, trusts and has been with them for years. Now he is in a kennel…. scary, unfamiliar place. This will cause fear, anxiety, stress, illness and depression. Why is there no exception for this dog? Other dogs are given to the officer. Why is this different? Are we as humans really not able to see what is so clearly right and wrong here? We have an opportunity to do what is right. There are so many amazing dogs at shelters and rescues that could be trained and lives saved. Please do what is clearly the right thing to do.

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