WENONAH — A SEPTA K9 dog removed from the home of his handler has been returned to the family after being retired from active duty.

SEPTA caused a stir when it took Abal from his long-time handler, SEPTA officer Richard Galanti, for an unknown reason. The removal left the Galanti's children in tears and the family, which had lived the dog for five years, searching for answers.

SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said that an officer "is not entitled to keep the K9 with which s/he was assigned" when transferred off that unit, and that officers should "know that their partner is not a family pet."

But the Philadelphia transit agency reversed course on Friday and announced in a message on Twitter that Abal was being retired after doctors found a degenerative bulging disc in his back.

"Due to the strenuous nature of the work required of a dual-purpose explosive detection and patrol K9, SEPTA, in conjunction with doctors at Penn, today made the decision to retire Abal from active duty. As a pet, Abal should have a healthy future ahead of him and SEPTA is grateful for his service over the last five years."

Abal would be offered to the Galanti family for adoption, according to the message.

Nicole Galanti told NJ.com that she was "ecstatic" over the news but didn't know when Abal would be back in their home. She did not yet return a message to New Jersey 101.5.

Abal was the Galanti family's comfort after they lost their 14-year-old son Ben in 2014 when he was hit by a car while riding his bike.

A Change.org petition gathered nearly 163,000 signatures to urge the Philadelphia transit agency to change its mind.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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