LOS ANGELES, Oct. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's top therapy dog, a pit bull named Elle (pronounced Ellie) from Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina who helps teach children about dog safety, reading, and overcoming prejudice and stereotypes – something a pit bull knows too much about – has been named this year's "American Hero Dog" at the 2013 American Humane Association Hero Dog AwardsTM. Elle and her human companion Leah Brewer were presented with the nation's top honors last night at the star-studded Hero Dog Awards gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The awards are presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel, and produced by Emmy® award-winning MRB Productions.
Elle is saving lives by teaching children dog safety (more than 2 million children are bitten by dogs each year) and making positive life changes for people by helping them overcome their fear of dogs. Since becoming a volunteer, Elle started a therapy dog reading program called "Tail Wagging Tales," helping children enjoy books and improve their reading skills. Elle is also making a difference by creating happiness all around while visiting her friends at an elementary school, a middle school, and a retirement home. Elle also reaches out to educate families about being responsible pet parents, sharing stories about her job as a therapy dog, and spreading positive awareness about dogs that are misunderstood, including pit bulls. This year's therapy dog category sponsor, as well as the online sponsor, is the leading animal health company, Zoetis. Elle's charity partner, which will receive $6,500 in financial support from the Hero Dog Awards, is the nonprofit organization, Hand in Paw.
The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America's most courageous canines were hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last night by television and movie star Joey Lawrence, accompanied by a galaxy of stars and presenters including Betty White, Jennifer Coolidge, Esai Morales, Ryan O'Neal, Naomi Judd, Pauley Perrette, Lisa Vanderpump, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Bailee Madison, Rico Rodriguez, Brian Baumgartner, Megan Blake, Max Carver, Torrey DeVitto, Matt Leinart, Lauren Potter, Eric Christian Olsen, Ben Savage, Austin Stowell, Chef Michael Voltaggio, Danielle Fishell, Lori Loughlin, Daphne Zuniga, Victoria Stillwell and many more. Popular TV stars Jenni Pulos and Lisa Vanderpump served as Red Carpet hosts. The phenomenally talented Frankie Moreno, who in addition to his many hit records and accolades was named Las Vegas' Headliner of the Year, provided the lead musical performances with striking and original songs written especially for the awards that brought down the house. Before the show, singer and Billboard recording artist Shara Strand turned in a stirring performance of "I Will Carry You," which she wrote for American Humane Association, and guitarist Tom Caufield set a sensitive and lyrical tone during the Red Carpet, silent auction and gala dinner.
The Hero Dog Awards were created to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people and recognize extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs. The event will be broadcast nationwide by Hallmark Channel on October 30 at 8 pm/7 Central. The 90-minute program will air as part of Hallmark Channel's Pet Project, the network's cross-platform advocacy campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives.
During a nationwide search over the course of six months, 141 dogs from all across the country were nominated and more than a million votes were cast by the American public, culminating in the selection of eight extraordinary canine finalists.
"The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our 'best friends' – ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association. "These courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. Choosing a top dog is difficult because they are all so terrific, but we are proud to announce Elle as the top American Hero Dog for 2013. As an organization that for years has fought breed-specific legislation (BSL), we are also pleased to honor a breed that has been often been unjustly maligned. We hope that Elle's story will help to underscore the many tremendously positive qualities of this breed."
The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Victoria Stilwell, Kristin Chenoweth, Candy Spelling, Miranda Lambert, Dr. Marty Becker, Michelle Forbes, Megyn Price, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Blake Koch, Tara Harper, Jerry Means, Nancy Otte, Michael Hingson, Shara Strand, Maria Milito, and Ashley Rhodes-Courter.
All Finalists Are Winners
Elle was the one chosen as 2013 American Hero Dog, but all eight finalists were winners in their categories, and we salute them for their courage, service and compassion:
EMERGING HERO DOGS CATEGORY (sponsored by Paul Mitchell Schools)
WINNER: Cassidy (Midvale, UT) -- Three years ago a good Samaritan pulled over to pick up a pile of trash on the side of the highway. Under the garbage was a skinny, matted, scared little black dog who had been hit by a car. Cassidy was rushed to the emergency vet where his front leg was amputated. Sheltie Rescue of Utah took him into their program and Cassidy found his forever home with Kathy. But Cassidy's amazing journey did not stop there; he is an advocate for special needs rescues and works to show that every life has value. He is proof that dogs are not disposable. Cassidy and his mom also do presentations for children about disabilities, acceptance and how everyone is different, special and has something positive to give to the world. Cassidy visits rehabilitation centers and is living proof that there is always hope and that anything is possible. Despite everything he has been through he has a very loving and trusting nature. He snuggles into each person's arms and shows them that he is perfect the way he is and that they too are perfect the way they are. (Charity Partner: Sheltie Rescue of Utah)
GUIDE DOG CATEGORY
WINNER: Jingles (Amsterdam, NY) -- Jingles is a Lab/Golden cross guide dog who works as part of a heroic team with a diabetic alert canine to help Karen Ann, who is multiply disabled. Jingles is joy unbounded, full of exuberance, and works hard to guide Karen Ann safely in every situation. Crossing streets Jingles maintains focus in the face of blaring horns, screeching brakes, and quiet hybrid vehicles that sneak up out of nowhere. She's adept at avoiding kids on scooters, people bustling by, construction barriers and the distraction of yapping pet dogs on flexi leads. In stores she steers Karen Ann clear of day-dreaming shoppers darting out of aisles with loaded carts, and guides her safely to where she wants to go. Jingles was trained to work on the left side of her partner but since Karen Ann is unable to work a dog on that side, Jingles underwent additional training and now she is Karen Ann's "right hand" girl. Jingles is unusual among guide dogs as she's trained to work in tandem with a second service dog. Together they offer a profoundly special gift to Karen Ann, offering her independence, safety and dignity. Karen Ann says both dogs are her heroes, but "Jingles is absolutely a one of a kind guide dog." (Charity Partner: The Seeing Eye)
HEARING DOG CATEGORY (Sponsored by MRB Productions)
WINNER: Lola (Bellingham, Washington) – Lola, a dog rescued from abuse and neglect, is paying it forward—daily helping and rescuing her partner Charlene, who is deaf. Charlene relies on Lola for so many things, connecting her to the world of sound around her. Lola is her alarm clock, her exercise companion, and her reason to move beyond depression and self-imposed isolation. Lola expands her activities, reminding Charlene to improve, not compromise, her quality of life. Whenever the oven-timer buzzes, the phone rings, or someone knocks at the door—Lola alerts her and insists on Charlene's paying attention to the world around her. She's always game for going to the ballpark, hospital visits, grocery store, rides on airplanes – even canoeing. Lola is a gem of a partner; she lightens Charlene's spirit as a source of courage and peace. When Charlene is alone, she helps her cope with the impact of hearing loss. Says Charlene, "Let the trumpets blow, fireworks blast, and the parade begin—my hearing dog Lola is a life-saver—an unsung heroine who gives her best daily to fulfill a higher purpose and for whom I'll be forever grateful." (Charity Partner: Dogs for the Deaf)
LAW ENFORCEMENT/ARSON DOG CATEGORY (sponsored by State Farm®)
WINNER: K9 Lakota (Locust Grove, Georgia) -- K9 Lakota served alongside Officer Travis Fox for less than four years but made remarkable achievements in his short career, among them more than 80 apprehensions, 28 drug seizures, $60,000 seized, six vehicle seizures, the recovery of stolen property, and the seizure of $60,000. K9 Lakota's career was ended prematurely in route to a home invasion call when Officer Fox and K9 Lakota ended up in a serious car accident. The accident split the car in two, ejecting both the officer and the dog from the car. K9 Lakota was not expected to live but his strong spirit fought on and after four surgeries (with more expected in his future), he is enjoying life in retirement. His work and his will to fight and live have shown his heroic side and he has brought people all over the world together for his cause. His story is now being used to help change laws for Law Enforcement Officer K9s so that they are better protected by their departments in case they are injured in the line of duty. K9 Lakota has been a true hero both in the line of duty and in retirement. (Charity Partner: K9s4COPs)
MILITARY DOG CATEGORY (sponsored by Royal Canin®)
WINNER: CWD Carlos EDD (Colorado Springs, CO) -- Explosive Detection Dog CWD Carlos retired in 2011 at the age of eight, after protecting U.S. and ISAF forces in continuous deployment for nearly five years. CWD Carlos, who worked with the U.S. Army's 3rd & 4th Infantry Divisions in Baghdad for two and a half years, was then transferred to Kandahar in 2009 to work in direct support of U.S. Special Forces on the front lines. Carlos is credited with finds on missions that saved the lives of many American soldiers. As Carlos aged, he was transferred to work with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan that was established by the United Nations Security Council. Sadly, upon retirement Carlos seems to have been the victim of neglect. To this day, Carlos still carries ligature mark scars on his back legs from hobble-style restraints. Fortunately for this hero, he was reclaimed, eventually adopted by the Ridpath family, and got a "Freedom Flight" HOME! Carlos continues to bring awareness to the contributions of all working dogs. A warrior with a zest for life in spite of his challenging medical issues, CWD Carlos is a true hero who saved uncounted lives while deployed, attends events, visits schools, and is an inspiration to everyone he meets. (Charity Partner: Military Working Dog Adoptions)
SEARCH AND RESCUE DOG CATEGORY
WINNER: John D (Little Rock, AR) -- John D is a Search and Rescue dog, human cancer detective and all-around humanitarian. When needed, John D is called in to find the missing in kidnappings, disasters, drownings, and other emergencies. One day, John D was called in for a river search. Moments after he arrived, a woman approached and asked to pet him. She hugged him and whispered in his ear, "YOU are my only hope. Please go find my child. Please bring my baby back to me." There was an immediate bond between them. John D then boarded a boat and went out on the river. For hours he searched. John D was drawn to the water, completely focused on it and began dipping his nose at the same spot. When the boat returned to shore, this hero dog leapt off the boat, running straight to the woman who had greeted him. He leaned hard against her. She bent down and hugged him. When she lifted her face from John D's fur, there were tears. John D had found her son who had drowned two days before. John D also works to save lives by using his remarkable scenting ability to advance the use of canines in detecting ovarian cancer and other cancers, which may help save a mother, daughter or sister from a devastating disease. John D's determination to work, despite his own severe hip dysplasia, provides inspiration to others. Once a rescue dog saved by people, now John D spends his life helping and saving them. (Charity Partner: The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve)
SERVICE DOG CATEGORY
WINNER: SD Bronx (Brunswick, GA) -- Can you imagine having your whole world change? Can you imagine having no friends? For 14-year-old Christopher those two questions were his reality. At the age of nine, Christopher began having seizures and was spending most of his childhood in the hospital trying to get answers. The answers were coming, but none of them were good. The doctors found out what was causing the seizures and they tried to use medicine to control them - one medicine after another. The seizures made it impossible for Christopher to attend school and other kids no longer wanted to be his friend - they were afraid of the seizures. Even Christopher was too afraid to sleep in his bedroom and didn't like leaving the house – the seizures had taken his childhood from him. Enter SD Bronx! Suddenly Christopher was not alone in his terrifying fight. His hero dog would tell him when seizures were about to happen and quickly alert others to help. SD Bronx stayed by his side at all doctor visits, and was there when Christopher lost half his field of vision, stepping into another role and working with Christopher and his sight cane. The challenges were hard but hero dog SD Bronx has helped Christopher to do more than he ever dreamed he could. (Charity Partner: Texas Hearing and Service Dogs)
Each of the eight finalists received $1,500 to be donated to one of American Humane Association's charity partners. Elle won an additional $5,000 for her charity. In this way, more heroes may be nurtured.
Human Heroes Also Honored
The Hero Dog Awards honors heroes "on both ends of the leash," as well as outstanding contributors to the fields of child and animal welfare. The evening featured a special tribute video to philanthropist Lois Pope, who was awarded American Humane Association's coveted "Legacy Award" for helping millions of children, veterans, and animals through her support of American Humane Association's Red Star™ rescue services, her presenting sponsorship for two years of the Hero Dog Awards, and many other charities. "We are honored to count Mrs. Lois Pope as a true friend to American Humane Association because of her unyielding passion for helping our most precious treasures, our children and animals," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association president and CEO. "We know our work is never done, but because of Mrs. Pope's grace and generosity, we will be able to continue our 136-year old mission for many generations to come. Indeed, she is a true humanitarian in every sense of the word."
Country star Miranda Lambert was awarded the National Humanitarian Medal for her longtime dedication to helping animals in need. In 2011 she and her MuttNation Foundation worked with American Humane Association to get relief to the animals affected by the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. In 2012 she and her foundation sponsored the winning Military Dog category of the Hero Dog Awards. And this year, following the EF-5 tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma, she, her foundation, and her family all worked to help our Red Star rescue team save animals in the disaster zone.
Gus Arrendale, president of Springer Mountain Farms, was recognized for being the first major poultry producer to voluntarily enroll in the American Humane Certified® program, the nation's first, oldest, and largest farm animal welfare auditing and certification program, now ensuring the humane treatment of nearly 1 billion of the 10 billion animals living on America's farms and ranches. Mr. Arrendale's vision is for all-natural animals raised humanely on a vegetarian diet without the use of antibiotics, steroids, growth stimulants or hormones. For his early and forward-looking commitment to the welfare of the animals in his care, he was awarded the National Humanitarian Medal.
Finally, we honor the many generous sponsors who support the Hero Dog Awards and made them possible. "We thank the animals, their dedicated owners and handlers, and the generous sponsors who have helped bring about that recognition," says Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. "Thank you to the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Hallmark Channel, national online sponsor and Therapy Dog sponsor Zoetis®, Military Dog sponsor Royal Canin®, Law Enforcement and Arson Dog sponsor State Farm®, Emerging Hero Dog sponsor Paul Mitchell Schools, Hearing Dog sponsor MRB Productions, Best Producer sponsor Merial, print sponsor Modern Dog magazine, and Pet Life Radio whose Super Smiley served as our 2013 National Spokesdog . Dogs may be our best friends, but these caring organizations are theirs."
The American Humane Association Hero Dog AwardsTM
Now in its third year, the Hero Dog Awards competition searches out and recognizes America's Hero Dogs – often ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things, whether it's saving lives on the battlefield, lending sight or hearing to a human companion, or simply the tail-wagging welcome a pet owner relishes at the end of a hard day. Dogs compete in eight categories for the Hero Dog Awards: Law Enforcement & Arson Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Hearing Dogs and Emerging Hero Dogs (the category for "ordinary" dogs).
About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country's first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we're also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.
About Lois Pope, The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., and LIFE (Leaders in Furthering Education)
Lois Pope is one of America's leading philanthropists and humanitarians. Through her various charitable mechanisms, including the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., she is devoted to saving lives, helping people help themselves, improving the quality of life for families in need and encouraging young Americans to become leaders by helping others. Her foundations also provide awards for medical research, college scholarships, humanitarian relief, the performing arts, and animal welfare. Among the many organizations that benefit from her leadership are American Humane Association; the Disabled Veterans' LIFE Memorial Foundation, which she founded to spearhead the development of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the nation's first and only permanent public tribute to the three million living disabled American veterans and the thousands who have died; the University of Miami, where her major contribution endowed the Lois Pope LIFE Center, the top catastrophic neurological research facility in the world and home to the renowned Miami Project to Cure Paralysis; Leaders in Furthering Education, which has provided a summer camp experience for more than 15,000 disadvantaged and special needs children, as well as college scholarship support to dozens of disadvantaged high school students who aspire to careers as physicians/researchers; Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's Red Cross, for new ambulances; and the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League for a new mobile pet adoption unit. A mother and a grandmother, Lois has trained for and completed five New York City Marathons. For more information about LIFE visit www.life-edu.org.
About Hallmark Channel
Hallmark Channel, owned and operated by Crown Media Holdings, Inc., is a 24-hour basic cable network that provides a diverse slate of high-quality entertainment programming available in high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) to a national audience of 86 million subscribers. Hallmark Channel is the nation's leading destination for quality family programming with an ambitious slate of original TV movies and specials, as well as some of television's most beloved sitcoms and series, including The Golden Girls, The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, and Frasier. The channel is also home to a range of lifestyle programming, anchored by Home & Family, a daily two-hour live show shot in a fully functional house located on the Universal Studios lot. Hallmark Channel's sibling network, Hallmark Movie Channel, available in HD and SD, focuses on family-friendly movies with a mix of original films, classic theatrical releases, and presentations from the acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame library. For more information, please visit www.crownmediapress.com . Hallmark Channel on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter (Join the conversation at #HeartofTV), Pinterest, GetGlue, YouTube
About MRB Productions
Launched in 2001 by Emmy Award-winning Executive Producer Matthew Brady, MRB Productions has quickly become one of Hollywood's go-to production companies, garnering 15 Emmy nominations and 2 wins for its visually striking content. In features, MRB's political comedy, GRASSROOTS, starring Jason Biggs, opened theatrically in the US and Europe and is also available On Demand. EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES, a psychological thriller starring Jessica Biel, premiered in competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Tribeca Film. In television, MRB is the production company behind two seasons of FREE RADIO (VH1 and Comedy Central), THE OTHER MALL (ABC Family), and the annual HERO DOG AWARDS for Hallmark Channel. MRB also produces content for HBO, ESPN, NBC, ABC, NFL Network, and Longhorn Network. In the digital space, MRB's work ranges from comedy shorts on Funny or Die to the critically acclaimed Webby Award winning THE CONFESSION, starring Kiefer Sutherland, produced exclusively for Hulu and distributed internationally by Sony Pictures Television.
Zoetis (zō-EH-tis) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on a 60-year history as the animal health business of Pfizer, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, with a focus on both farm and companion animals. In 2012, the company generated annual revenues of $4.3 billion. With approximately 9,300 employees worldwide at the beginning of 2013, Zoetis has a local presence in approximately 70 countries, including 29 manufacturing facilities in 11 countries. Its products serve veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals in 120 countries. For more information on the company, visit www.zoetis.com.
About Royal Canin USA
Royal Canin USA is a leader in science-based cat and dog health nutrition. Founded by a veterinarian in 1968, Royal Canin has more than 40 years of experience in delivering individualized nutritional solutions. In collaboration with an expert team of nutritionists, breeders, and veterinarians from around the world, Royal Canin places cats and dogs at the central point of the innovation process. The Royal Canin product line offers a range of diets based on size, age, breed, life style and therapeutic requirements. Royal Canin diets are available at veterinary hospitals and pet specialty stores nationwide. Royal Canin is a subsidiary of Mars, Incorporated. To learn more about Royal Canin visit www.royalcanin.us and "LIKE" us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/royalcanin.us.
About State Farm®
State Farm and its affiliates are the largest provider of car insurance in the U.S. and is a leading insurer in Canada. In addition to providing auto insurance quotes, their 18,000 agents and more than 69,000 employees serve 81 million policies and accounts – more than 79 million auto, home, life and health policies in the United States and Canada, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 44 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com or in Canada http://www.statefarm.ca.
About Paul Mitchell Schools
At Paul Mitchell Schools, we believe that education is an adventure and the learning experience needs to be fun. Our instructors—we call them "learning leaders"—are trained to draw out the artist in every student and prepare them to compete in the real world. Through our annual "FUNraising" campaign, we've raised and donated millions of dollars in support of many charitable causes. We've built homes with Habitat for Humanity, fed thousands of African orphans, and supported the victims of AIDS, breast cancer, homelessness, abuse, and hundreds of other causes. Established over 30 years ago, the Paul Mitchell network is nearly 100,000 salons strong and in 81 countries worldwide; every professional hairdresser knows the Paul Mitchell name. Now, with the arrival of Paul Mitchell Schools, we've taken the world of cosmetology education by storm! Visit www.paulmitchell.edu to learn more.
Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 6,000 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2012 sales were $2.8 billion (€2.2 billion).Merial is a Sanofi company. For more information, please see www.merial.com.
About Modern Dog Magazine A must-read for dog lovers! Get inspired with the best ideas and solutions for life with dogs. Each issue features breed profiles, budget buys, activities for you and your dog, health & wellness, dog-friendly travel destinations, rescue stories, product reviews, photo contests, giveaways and more! Modern Dog is your guide to a better bond with your dog.
SOURCE American Humane Association