Citrus SO unwilling to part with K-9 after handler goes on medical leave

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A Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputy on medical leave wants his former K-9 partner to join his family.  However, the department says the dog has many working years ahead of him and is a valuable asset to the agency.

For almost two-years, Deputy Jonathan Behnen and his K-9 partner, Krennic, were teamed up to keep the streets of Citrus County safe. The three-year-old dog specializes in narcotics detection and patrol work, sharing a deep bond with his handler.

“It’s his support animal, when he was out on the road it would help him forget about all the bad stuff and all the negative stuff and stuff that he’s gone through, and help him go through his day,” said Keli Behnen, Jonathan’s wife.

She says Jonathan has been battling job-related PTSD for about four years, and since September he’s been on extended medical leave from the agency.

The family says K-9 Krennic was taken back by the sheriff’s office almost a month ago.

“That dog is amazing, and I understand he’s an asset to the sheriff’s [office], that’s why we offered to make a monetary donation,” Keli said.

The family offered the sheriff's office to pay for the dog, but she says officials have not gotten back to them.

However, in a statement, the sheriff’s office tells FOX 13 News Krennic is not for sale.

The statement says, in part, “Knowing K-9 Krennic would go unutilized for the next 3-5 month period and possibly longer, for operational purposes of the agency, it was decided to reassign the asset... All K-9 deputies are informed prior to receiving their canine partner that these dogs are not to be considered pets but are strictly a working partner.”

Keli says she’s not convinced, calling Krennic a one-person dog who only responds to her husband.  She’s concerned Krennic will end up sitting in a kennel.

“He is my husband’s best friend, not just a partner, not just somebody he goes to work with, or anything like that, that’s his support,” she said. “Regardless of how they want to look at it as an asset, that is his support, that is what brings happiness to his days even when we can’t. We just want him back.”

The sheriff’s office says it’s common practice to reassign a K-9 to a different handler when the dog is capable of working many more years.