After a staffing change split up a longtime K9 officer and his handler, SEPTA Police say they're reuniting the two by retiring the dog from the police force.
SEPTA Police K9 Abal will once again call the Galanti household home after the family was forced to give him up last week.
Andrew Busch, a SEPTA spokesman, said Friday that veterinarians discovered Abal developed a degenerative bulging disc in his spine, which sidelined him from work as a dual-purpose explosive detection and patrol K9.
The department decided, after consulting with doctors at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital, that Abal wouldn't be able to return to active duty. Officials are allowing former partner, SEPTA Police officer Richard Galanti, to adopt him.
Abal was relocated to the department's kennel last Tuesday after Galanti was reassigned to another unit in the department in March. The reassignment left Galanti and his family devastated. Abal had lived with them for five years and helped them navigate the death of their 14-year-old son.
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News of the split sparked a public outcry on social media. An online petition organized by Galanti's wife, Nicole, calling for Abal to be returned to the family racked up more than 161,000 signatures.
At the time, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said Abal had years of service ahead of him as an officer and that it would be unfair to deprive him or the department of his work.
Busch said the department will begin working immediately to replace Abal on the force.