NEWTON FALLS — Village Police Officer Steve Lyden cried Thursday night after the Village Council voted 5-0 to give him his police dog, Kato, for $1 as a pet.
The vote came after a nearly 90-minute meeting attended by more than 40 residents, where the original motion for council to pass was that Lyden would pay the village $5,000 for Kato and agree not to raise, sell or allow the dog to be released. in service for another community or entity.
Several residents told council that Kato should be given to Lyden for $1 because he had the dog with him on duty and at his home. Lyden recently submitted his resignation letter to the village after accepting a position with the security forces at Mercy Health’s St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.
Because he is leaving and being Kato’s master and trainer, the canine police unit program would end after less than two years.
Lyden has worked with Kato since its purchase in 2020 through donations and city funds. Kato lived in his home and spent time with his wife, Amber, and 5-year-old daughter. The Lydens said they wanted to keep Kato as a pet and were not going to breed or sell him, indicating that the dog would be neutered.
Amber Lyden said they had no problem with the terms set out in the agreement, but questioned whether they breached the agreement by breeding or selling the dog if they had to pay the damages from the village of $25,000. She said she was worried that because the dog listens to her husband’s commands, someone might see him in the yard and claim he is training Kato for another department and report them.
Steve Lyden said he accepted and agreed with the $5,000, even suggesting using his remaining vacation and time off for it. Other people also offered to help with the amount.
“I don’t like the idea of having a $25,000 fine hanging over my family’s head for the rest of their life. My biggest problem is when I read “Do not sell, raise or commission” it’s vague, said Steve Lyden.
The council agreed to withdraw the portion of approximately $25,000 paid to the village if the conditions are not met.
Second Ward Councilor John Baryak said he wanted the Lydens to have the dog as a pet, but expressed concern that Steve Lyden might return the dog to another agency or department. He said the village was facing serious financial problems.
Resident Adam Zimmermann said Kato was not just a “officer” for the department but also a pet partly funded by donations from the community.
Fourth Ward Councilman Chris Granchie said his brother was a dog handler and had worked with dogs and handlers as a member of the military.
“Dogs only listen to their masters. From what I can see, there would be no way to retrain this dog. I have seen the bond that Lyden and Kato have and it would be unacceptable under any circumstances to separate them. said Granchie.
“I don’t think we should take money for it. If we’re trying to take advantage of the back of the donations and the bond that Officer Lyden and Kato have, I’m not okay with that. said Granchie.
City Manager Pam Priddy said Lyden said in his resignation letter that he wanted Kato to be a pet.
She said Kato was purchased with donations, grant and village funds for $11,500, dog-riding “city property”. She said village-paid expenses for Kato were $18,755 for 2020 and 2021, which includes her required training with Lyden.
Priddy said that in the 19 months the village has had Kato, the dog has been involved in 61 arrests, $1,911 in drug seizures, three illegal gun seizures and numerous other investigations related to the dope. Kato also helped other departments.
After the motion to give the dog to Lyden for $1, many people at the meeting stood up and applauded the council’s action.
Resident Steve Simpson thanked council for their decision.
“You made the right decision. This is what voters wanted. he said.
General Councilor Julie Stimpert said the dog has done a lot to help save lives in the community.
” I do not know what to say. I’m so grateful,” said Steve Lyden after the meeting.