OLD BRIDGE — A township family has been dealt extra heartache after a K9 handler called to active military duty was forced to hand over his work dog, Mattie.

Seamus Fennessy on Wednesday delivered the black Labrador he has lived and worked with for more than six years to his employer, MSA Security.

Fennessy, who has served in the Army National Guard for 20 years, said he decided to work for the private security firm because of its military friendly reputation and policy to keep each dog with one handler. He said there was also the "promise" that a handler can keep his or her canine, once the animal is retired.

Fennessy said Mattie is just two months shy of her 7th birthday and one year from her expected retirement. He has been the dog's only handler her entire life. He said MSA Security's decision to retain Mattie as a full-time K9 worker is "cruel and inhumane."

A National Guardsman calls work dog surrender 'cruel' (courtesy of Deirdre Fennessy)

A spokeswoman for MSA Security on Wednesday declined to discuss the case in detail.

"MSA’s Security’s explosive detection canine services are a matter of public and private safety," Miranda Tomic said. "Our policies and procedures regarding our canines and handlers are subject to confidentially and may not be discussed by MSA."

Fennessy's wife, Deirdre, said the situation has been "a painful and thoroughly unnecessary process." She said her husband offered to continue work for MSA Security part-time for the next year, in addition to his full-time Army job, just so that Mattie could stay with the family as she continued work.

Fennessy said the company's decision to keep the dog on its full-time work roster is "contradictory to the family-friendly feel-good vibe they like to sell on their website."

An online petition urging MSA Security to reconsider their decision has attracted nearly 4,500 signatures in less than a week. A Facebook page created for the same purpose also has amassed more than 1,600 followers.

MSA Security is a global high-consequence threat security firm that is headquartered in New York City. The company has more than 1,000 employees operating in 42 states and 30 countries.

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