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Community begins petition drive to keep officer, K9 together

Justin Berry with Knox (Contributed photo)

The eight-year partnership between a police officer and his four-legged friend may be coming to an end.

Justin Berry currently is employed with the Morehead City Police Department. His four-legged partner in fighting crime is Knox. Both have been serving the city for eight years. Berry is soon transferring to a different department and in a year, Knox is expected to retire.

Knowing this scenario, Berry asked the police department if he could keep Knox and even offered to pay for him. The department has turned down his offer.

A statement from Morehead City Police Department read:

The MHCPD is going to continue service WITH Knox (the K-9). He will be transferred to an experienced handler within the department. He is a valued part of the police force. We appreciate the service of his handler Justin Berry and respect his decision to move on with his career.

Cathy Ingram has started a petition to change that outcome.

"It broke my heart because I know them both and I know that breed of dog and I know that this is a death sentence for that because he will not assimilate with someone else," Ingram said. "It just won't happen."

Ingram is a former neighbor of Berry and decided to fight for the duo the only way she knew how. The petition has already racked up over 3,200 signatures as of 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"I was hoping for maybe five hundred," Ingram said. "That's how fast my friends and my community has stepped up to the plate for this dog and Justin."

Department officials said Knox will continue to serve the department and will be transferred to an experienced handler within the department. We spoke with a police dog trainer who said the adjustment might be very tough on Knox, who is used to spending 24 hours with Berry.

"This dog is equivalent to 56 years old so imagine a 56-year-old person getting like Alzheimer's or Dementia and everything is stripped away from him," said Monty Ellison, a former Carteret County dog trainer who lives and works in Maine now.

Ellison said only time can tell how Knox might change but he said it's very common in these cases to see dogs give in to the handlers.

"We owe him that and Justin for serving this community for over eight years to have a nice retirement," Ingram said.

We've been told Berry will have to give Knox back to the police department after his shift Thursday.

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