LOS ANGELES, September 28 – The country’s top therapy dog, a pit bull mix named Susie from High Point, North Carolina who overcame a terrible ordeal but went on to bring hope to both people and animals, has been named this year’s “American Hero Dog” at the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog AwardsTM, presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc. and broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel October 30 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central Time.
Susie was only a puppy when her owner beat her savagely and set her on fire, leaving her for dead in a local park in Greensboro, North Carolina. After being rescued by a local animal shelter and nursed back to health, she was adopted by Donna Lawrence, who had been the victim of a terrible dog attack that nearly killed her and left her without the ability to have children. Together, they helped each other heal from their physical and emotional wounds, triumphing over pain and fear to become voices for abused animals and helping pass “Susie’s Law” in North Carolina, which calls for harsher penalties for convicted animal abusers. Susie became the subject of the movie, “Susie’s Hope,” and working side by side, Donna and Susie continue to make the world a better place for others by visiting hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to inspire people never to give up. This year’s therapy dog category sponsor, as well as the campaign’s online sponsor, is the leading animal health company, Zoetis.
The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America’s most courageous canines were hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last night by television and film star James Denton and model and animal advocate Beth Stern, accompanied by a galaxy of stars and presenters including Bruce Boxleitner, Lacey Chabert, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Cristina Ferrare, Lori Loughlin, Bailee Madison, Kellie Martin, Marlee Matlin, Brandon McMillan, Larry Miller, Barbara Niven, Pauley Perrette, Charlotte Ross, Mark Steines, Victoria Stilwell, and more.
Wilson Phillips provided the lead musical performances, which brought down the house. Before the show, singer and Billboard recording artist Shara Strand treated the audience to songs from her new hit album, “RSVP,” and the Harry Kim quintet entertained guests during the Red Carpet, silent auction and gala dinner.
Guests were also treated to a Hero Dog Art Show, featuring art works about dogs sent in by children across the country as part of a humane education initiative with Todd Kessler, co-creator of the wildly successful "Blue's Clues" television program and author of the innovative new children's book "The Good Dog."
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 ET/PT, 7 pm Central. The 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, 135 dogs from all across the country were nominated and more than one and a half 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 Susie as the top American Hero Dog for 2014. We hope that Susie’s story will inspire people to realize healing power of the human-animal bond.”
The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Victoria Stilwell, Naomi Judd, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Alison Eastwood, Joanna Krupa, Bailee Madison, Lisa Vanderpump, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Lou Wegner, Christie Brooke, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Leilani Dowding, Paige Dunham, Joanne Horowitz, Blake Koch, Shara Strand, Agent Jerry Means, Kristin Bauer van Straten, and Victoria Summer.
All Finalists Are Winners
Susie was the one chosen as 2014 American Hero Dog, but all eight finalists were winners in their categories, and we salute them for their courage, service and compassion:
ARSON DOG CATEGORY - Sponsored by State Farm
WINNER: Kai (San Antonio, TX) – The San Antonio Fire Department’s six-year-old black Lab was rescued from a shelter and given a second chance and a new lease on life. Her nose for finding things was apparent when she was seen digging the only tennis ball out of the shelter’s box of toys. After undergoing extensive training, she now helps keep others safe by investigating arson cases by using her powerful nose to detect the common accelerants that arsonists use to commit their deadly, destructive crime. In her four-year career she has taken part in more than 200 investigations and also helps to keep her community safe by teaching children about the importance of fire safety.
(Charity Partner: Project Paws Alive)
EMERGING HERO DOG CATEGORY - Sponsored by Trupanion
WINNER: Xena (Johns Creek, GA) – This pit bull was knocking on death’s door when she was brought into a Georgia shelter outside Atlanta. Emaciated and dehydrated, she was given just a one percent chance at survival. Unbelievably, she defied the odds, made a full recovery and was adopted by a family with a little boy with autism. Before, the child had closed himself off to the world, but the arrival of Xena sparked something in the child the family had never seen before, and he went from once silent to constantly singing to and chatting with Xena the Warrior Puppy. Now, they’re an inseparable pair.
(Charity Partner: Sheltie Rescue of Utah)
GUIDE/HEARING DOG CATEGORY - Sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food
WINNER: Xxon (Bloomfield, CT) – In January 2010, an explosion in Kandahar, Afghanistan left Air Force Sergeant Michael Malarsie blind and killed four of his fellow servicemen, including his best friend. Though he lost his sight, Sgt. Malarsie was soon partnered with Xxon, and they became the only active duty guide dog team in the Air Force. Now retired, Sgt. Malarsie continues to work with Xxon every day as the dog helps get him safely to wherever he needs to be. The pair are also outspoken advocates for the importance of service dogs to members of the military, and have visited members of Congress to discuss this important issue.
(Charity Partner: Fidelco).
LAW ENFORCEMENT DOG CATEGORY
WINNER: Kota (Winchester, VA) – On January 3, 2014, this member of the Winchester, Virginia police force was injured while responding to a burglary in progress. While in the process of detaining the suspect – who had hidden himself in the upstairs crawlspace – the ceiling gave way and the dog tumbled to the hardwood floor eight feet below. Undeterred, he bravely climbed back up the stairs and helped his fellow officers finish the call, fighting with a severely fractured limb to ensure their safety. Kota is now undergoing extensive physical therapy with hopes of one day returning to active duty.
(Charity Partner: K9s4COPs)
MILITARY DOG CATEGORY - Sponsored by Shotz Natural Energy
WINNER: Chaney (Waverly, IA) – This eight-year-old lab retired from the Marines in 2013 after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an IED detection dog. While deployed, Chaney not only saved countless lives by locating IEDs, he also served as a great morale booster for everyone in his squad. Since retiring, Chaney was adopted by one of his handlers and they now spend many hours volunteering around the Midwest for a nonprofit organization called Retrieving Freedom, Inc., which trains service dogs for disabled veterans and children with autism.
(Charity Partner: America’s VetDogs)
SEARCH AND RESCUE DOG CATEGORY - Sponsored by Mission Manager
WINNER: Bretagne (Cypress, TX) – Over her long career, Bretagne has made a significant contribution to the search and rescue community through her many deployments including the World Trade Center after 9/11, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and Hurricane Rita in 2005. Although she retired from active duty in 2008, she now continues as an ambassador for search and rescue dogs as she visits elementary schools where she helps first graders learn to read. Even at her older age, she still goes into work with a bigger lust for life than dogs half her age.
(Charity Partner: Penn Vet Working Dog Center)
SERVICE DOG CATEGORY - Sponsored by Modern Dog Magazine
WINNER: JJ Krawczyk (Apex, NC) – Once a shelter dog, this small hero was rescued, trained, and partnered with a young girl suffering from a rare condition known as Mastocytosis, which can cause severe reactions for her. This dog with the gifted nose can detect when reactions are about to occur, alerting the girl’s parents that her life might be in danger. When she needed surgery recently, doctors requested the dog be present in the operating room to help keep the girl alive. Though she doesn’t have a medical degree – or even a pedigree – she’s one of the most powerful tools for doctors to keep the young girl’s condition at bay.
(Charity Partner: Freedom Service Dogs)
Each of the eight finalists received $1,500 to be donated to one of American Humane Association’s charity partners. Susie won an additional $5,000 for her charity. In this way, more heroes may be nurtured.
An Extraordinary Reunion of Two More Heroes –and an Extraordinary Gift
American Humane Association has also been involved in helping military heroes, and has been working with Mission K9 Rescue and the U.S. War Dog Association to bring home and reunite military dogs with their hero handlers. Following an emotional scene during the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ in which the audience met Marine Corporal Matt Foster who was reunited with his beloved former military hero dog Mick after a year apart following their service in Afghanistan, noted philanthropist, animal welfare and disabled veterans advocate Lois Pope announced a pledge of $150,000 to support American Humane Association’s efforts to aid and pay tribute to the nation’s brave military hero dogs and their former handlers. Mrs. Pope is donating $50,000 to the American Humane Association’s “K9 Battle Buddies program” to bring more of these veterans back together on American soil where they can both live out their well-deserved retirements in the way they deserve after a lifetime of service. To bring national attention to these heroes on both ends of the leash,
Mrs. Pope is also underwriting a $100,000 special effort to include these military hero dog teams in this year's America’s Parade, which takes place on Veterans Day 2014 in New York City. Her generous contribution will give these reunited dog teams their own part in the parade – and a national platform so that millions of Americans can honor them as they should be honored.
“The thousands of dogs who serve in our nation’s military have sacrificed so much,” said Mrs. Pope. “They are often the first line of defense, sniffing out bombs, mines, and other explosive devices. As they did on the battlefield, they can save lives here at home, just by being a companion to the veterans with whom they served. I’ve witnessed the profound impact that these dogs can have on them. It is my honor to support the efforts of American Humane Association, its K9 Battle Buddies program and its participation in the Veterans Day parade.”
“Lois Pope has been one of the country's greatest supporters not only of our nation's disabled veterans, whose cause she has championed for decades, but of America's most vulnerable children and animals,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association’s President and CEO. “You don't just talk the talk, you make a difference in millions of lives and improve our world. Lois, on behalf of all our veterans -- two-footed and four-footed alike -- we salute you!”
Heroes to Animal Also Honored
The Hero Dog Awards honors heroes “on both ends of the leash,” and this year the Hero Dog Awards inaugurated a new element, the American Humane Association Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards™, sponsored by the leading animal health company Zoetis. After a nationwide search and tens of thousands of public votes, Eva DeCozio, DVM, of the VCA Apache Junction clinic in Higley, Arizona was named 2014’s American Hero Veterinarian, and Signe Corbin of the Westlake Animal Hospital in Austin, Texas was declared 2014’s American Hero Veterinary Technician.
“To us, all vets and vet techs are heroes and this is why we want to honor the best of the best in their fields,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association’s president and CEO. “Indeed, Dr. DeCozio and Ms. Corbin are tremendous animal welfare advocates and we are so proud to learn of their laudable accomplishments aiding the animals in need in their communities. And our thanks go out to our friends at Zoetis for sponsoring this special contest because we know how committed they are to recognizing the achievements of the veterinary community.”
Special Surprise: “Easy Rider” Motorcycle to Give Easier Ride to America’s Kids and Animals
At one special point of the evening, American Humane Association President brought out and thanked Michael Eisenberg, the Los Angeles developer and memorabilia collector for generously donating a portion of the auction proceeds from the sale of the iconic “Captain America” motorcycle ridden by actor Peter Fonda in the classic film “Easy Rider.” Fonda has been a longtime supporter of American Humane Association. “We are blessed and honored to count as friends such notables as Peter Fonda and Michael Eisenberg, and to be associated with this legendary piece of American film history,” said Dr. Ganzert. “The sale of the famous motorcycle in ‘Easy Rider’ will now help to give an easier ride to America’s children and animals, who need help from powerful benefactors like these. Thank you!”
Honoring Our Heroes’ Supporters
Finally, American Humane Association honored 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,” said Dr. Ganzert. “Thank you to Lois Pope and the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Hallmark Channel, national online sponsor, Therapy Dog sponsor and sponsor of the Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards Zoetis®, Military Dog sponsor Shotz Natural Energy, Arson Dog sponsor State Farm®, Emerging Hero Dog sponsor Trupanion, Guide/Hearing Dog sponsor Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food, Search and Rescue Dog sponsor Mission Manager, Service Dog sponsor Modern Dog Magazine, Best Producer sponsor The Beverly Hilton Hotel, and Best Producer sponsor Merial, maker of Heartgard and NexGard. Dogs may be our best friends, but these caring organizations are theirs.”
The American Humane Association Hero Dog AwardsTM
Now in its fourth 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 Dogs, Arson Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue 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
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 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 Shotz Natural Energy, LLC
As the pioneer of the single serving energy shot category, we have been dedicated to creating superior functional beverages for over a decade that meet the needs of individuals with active lifestyles. Shotz Natural Energy delivers a healthy and therapeutic source of B-Vitamins, Vitamin-C & essential amino acids, while excluding added sugars, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives. Our natural and well-rounded formula provides the body and mind with a natural lift regardless of the task at hand, workload or intensity level of a workout. Our products are designed and formulated for people who care about their health, well-being and desire to receive nature’s positive energy to make “keeping-going” feel great. Our mission is to continue to deliver innovative products to consumers around the world that help contribute to a better way of life.
Trupanion is an industry leader in medical insurance for cats and dogs in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico with the mission to help the pets we all love receive the best veterinary care possible. Trupanion offers a simple, fair and comprehensive pet medical insurance policy that pays 90% of veterinary costs for covered accident and illness claims that could include diagnostic tests, surgeries, medications, hospital stays, and alternative therapies for the treatment of injuries or illnesses. Trupanion's policy includes coverage of chronic, hereditary and congenital conditions with no payout limits per incident, per year, or over the lifetime of the pet. Some terms and conditions apply, please see our policy for details at Trupanion.com. In the United States, Trupanion is underwritten by the American Pet Insurance Company, which has earned a Financial Stability Rating® of A--Exceptional from Demotech, Inc. In Canada, Trupanion is underwritten by Omega General Insurance Company. Trupanion is a founding member of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), demonstrating a commitment to high standards and transparency in all actions and products. For more information call 888.733.2685 or visit Trupanion.com. You can also follow Trupanion on Twitter or Facebook.
About Chicken Soup for the Soul and Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food
Chicken Soup for the Soul publishes the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. In 2007, USA Today named Chicken Soup for the Soul one of the five most memorable books in the last quarter-century. With over 100 million books sold to date in the U.S. and Canada alone, more than 250 titles, and translations into more than 40 languages, "chicken soup for the soul" is one of the world's best-known phrases and is regularly referenced in pop culture. Today, 20 years after it first began sharing happiness, inspiration and wellness through its books, Chicken Soup for the Soul continues to delight readers and fans with new titles, but has also evolved beyond the bookstore. Its high quality products include wholesome and balanced pet food that recognizes the unique relationship between pets and people, a line of delicious, nutritious food, that makes it easier to bring people together around the table for healthy meals, as well as movies, television, licensed gifts, and a host of digital offerings, all of which are inspired by stories. Chicken Soup for the Soul is "changing the world one story at a time"® For more information visit www.chickensoup.com.
About Mission Manager
Mission Manager provides cloud-based software designed to help save lives and property by enabling first responders to operate more efficiently and effectively. Mission Managers team member and asset management capabilities, combined with its calendar and communication functions, allows users to enhance team readiness through optimized training and seamlessly integrate mission-specific operations during real-time events.
Over the past three years, Mission Manager has been used in nearly 5,000 missions ranging from single-person rescues to large public events and full-scale natural disaster response. Mission Manager is currently used in all 50 U.S. states, and on every continent except Antarctica. Truly a global tool, Mission Manager is available in 80 languages. To learn more, visit http://www.MissionManager.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.
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 6,200 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide with close to €2 billion of sales in 2013. Merial is a Sanofi company. More info on www.merial.com
About The Beverly Hilton
Opened in 1955 by distinguished hotelier Conrad Hilton, The Beverly Hilton, a Forbes Four-Star hotel, is owned by the Los Angeles-based, Oasis West Realty, LLC and managed by Hilton Worldwide (NYSE: HLT). Nestled at the crossroads of the iconic Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, the hotel combines the excitement and entertainment of Hollywood with the prestige of Beverly Hills. The 569-room hotel features 101 suites including nine private luxury suites within The Penthouse Collection. With more than 60,000 square feet of indoor and open-air event space, The Beverly Hilton boasts the most technologically advanced meeting space of its kind in the country. The hotel’s renowned International Ballroom plays host to glamorous annual events including the Golden Globe Awards Show, Oscar Nominee Luncheon, Pre-GRAMMYs Gala, and the Milken Institute’s Global Conference. The legendary Aqua Star Pool is Beverly Hills’ largest pool and is the setting for numerous recognizable photo shoots. The adjoining Aqua Star BABOR Beauty Spa offers red carpet-ready treatments from BABOR Beauty in a secluded setting. Circa 55 restaurant entices guests with locally-sourced cuisine in a stylish setting overlooking the pool, while Trader Vic’s Lounge, a Hollywood staple for generations, offers a lively scene with Polynesian flair. For more information, please visit www.beverlyhilton.com or call 310.274.7777.