NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) — The community rallied around Newton Falls officer Steve Lyden Thursday night as he learned whether or not he would be able to keep his police dog, Kato.
“This is wrong. Award custody of Kato to Officer Lyden,” said community member Steve Simpson.
About 40 community members gathered in support of Lyden in front of the city council as they voted to transfer custody of his K9 dog.
Lyden has worked with Kato since he was purchased in 2020 through donations and city funds. Kato has lived in his home and spent time with his wife and his five-year-old daughter.
“When I brought him home, he immediately took to my wife and daughter. I was careful and watched with a close eye when he was around them but I saw anything other than the unconditional love that he has for them and for all of us,” said Lyden.
Originally, the agreement would have charged Lyden $5,000 — money the city argued they spent on Kato’s training — and fine Lyden $25,000 if he were to ever put Kato back into service. But for Lyden, it wasn’t about the $5,000 but the $25,000.
“I don’t like the idea of having a $25,000 penalty hanging over my family’s head for the rest of his life. My biggest issue is when I read ‘Do not sell, breed or put into service,’ it is vague,” said Lyden.
A clause city manager Pamela Priddy said reflected other communities in the area but some council people disagreed.
“I don’t feel that we should be taking any money from this. I understand we have to do a dollar. If we try to profit off the backs of donations and the bond that Officer Lyden and Kato have I’m not okay with that,” said 4th ward councilman Christopher Granchie.
Several council people and community members argued it would cost years and thousands to try to re-train Kato for another handler, making other options impossible. But when Granchie’s motion to sell Kato to Lyden for just $1 passed, cheers and tears of joy filled the council chambers.
“I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say. I’m just so thankful,” said Lyden.
Kato will remain with Lyden and his family as he departs for a new job as an officer at Mercy Health.