NEW YORK, September 14 – Sporting everything from capes to tuxedos to collars, dozens of genuine super heroes from around the country and around the world turned out Wednesday night at – where else? – Gotham Hall in New York City to receive recognition and thanks from American Humane Association and a grateful world for their heroic work in protecting all of us, especially children and animals.
Eight courageous canines were honored as finalists in the annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ for saving lives, comforting the ill, and serving their country, in a hero-filled event, “Super Heroes Among Us,” hosted by Carson Kressley. The Hero Dog Awards, which will take place October 6 in Los Angeles, are presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and produced by Emmy® award-winning MRB Productions, will air as a 90-minute special on Hallmark Channel November 8, 2012 at 8:00 pm ET/PT. The program will air as part of Hallmark Channel’s Pet Project, the network’s cross-platform campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives.
American Humane Association also presented the organization’s highest honor, its coveted National Humanitarian Medal to Masaaki Tanaka, Deputy President, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, for working with American Humane Association to help thousands of animals in desperate need following the disastrous earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan last year.
“Without his vital help, there would have been much more despair – and much less hope – for thousands of frightened, hungry, and homeless animals,” said American Humane Association President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert. “Because of his intervention, critically needed support of the animals displaced and left behind when that cataclysm occurred, will, with our help, go on for the foreseeable future.”
Mrs. Lois Pope, a longtime benefactor and presenting sponsor of the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, made a surprise announcement of a gift to expand the charity’s renowned Red Star Rescue fleet in South Florida, one of the most storm-ravaged areas of the country, ensuring that when disasters strike, our children and animals will not be forgotten.
“Because of Lois Pope, even more in desperate need will find hope, help and healing,” said Dr. Ganzert. “Thank you for extending your compassion and protection to millions of children and animals who rely on powerful protectors to keep them safe.”
American Humane Association also honored a group that has helped them protect more than a million animals throughout the years – SAG-AFTRA, which helps through its two industry cooperative funds to underwrite the charity’s famous “No Animals Were Harmed®” certification program to keep animal actors safe. “We have a 99.98 percent safety rate for animals on our sets and have protected so many of America’s most beloved non-human stars of the small and silver screen,” said Dr. Ganzert. “But we couldn’t have done it alone. We are so fortunate to have a partner in SAG-AFTRA that values all the actors who add so much joy, drama, and pathos to our culture and to our lives.”
Said SAG-AFTRA Co-President Roberta Reardon upon acceptance of the award, “Countless SAG-AFTRA actors have enjoyed terrific working relationships with animals on set. But no matter how wonderful the role or how meaningful the experience, what makes it work is American Humane Association and their efforts to ensure that on-set human-animal interaction is safe and enjoyable for all.”
Celebrities, VIPs and Animal Advocates Turn Out to Support American Humane Association
In addition to the honorees of the evening, dozens of celebrities, VIPs, and animal advocates who have been longtime heroes to children and animals showed up to show their support. Carson Kressley, host of last year’s Hero Dog Awards, came to lead “Super Heroes Among Us.” Jake T. Austin, star of “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “New Year’s Eve,” and the upcoming “Huckleberry Finn,” was a special guest presenter. Bill Abbott, President and CEO of Crown Family Networks, which through its Hallmark Channel broadcasts the Hero Dog Awards, talked about the importance of rescue groups. Filmmaker Kenn Bell premiered his newest creation, “The Animals of Fukushima,” showing the rescue work of American Humane Association and Masa Tanaka to the rapt audience. Animal advocates and American Humane Association National Ambassadors Prince Lorenzo Borghese and Tinsley Mortimer added gravitas and glitter to the proceedings, as did a host of top society names including Herme de Wyman Miro, president of The International Society of Palm Beach and AHA board member Suzi Goldsmith.
Corporate sponsors and supporters included State Farm, which trains arson dogs to protect our communities and sponsored the Law Enforcement/Arson category of the Hero Dog Awards; Pfizer Animal Health, which is behind AHA’s research study to help children with cancer through animal-assisted therapy and sponsored the Therapy Dog category of the Hero Dog Awards; Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group; Trupanion, which sponsored the Service Dogs category of the Hero Dog Awards; Bloomberg; Coastal Pet Products; Cru Vin Dogs Wine Group, which is donating a percentage of every bottle of its commemorative wine honoring last year’s top American Hero Dog Roselle to American Humane Association; renowned animal artist Leslie Priggen, who donated a commission of a special pet portrait; MRB Productions; and Jet Blue, the official air carrier of the Hero Dog Awards.
“The world can sometimes seem like a dark and scary place, especially for children and animals,” said Dr. Ganzert. “In this sometimes dangerous and troubling world, it’s good to know there are so many super heroes ready to protect and defend those in the most critical need. Surrounded by all of you, I feel safer already.”
Winner: DANIEL (Nutley, NJ) – Daniel, a beagle from an Alabama shelter on “death row,” did the unimaginable in 2011 when he survived the most inhumane form of euthanasia, the gas chamber. Since adopted by his loving guardian, Joe Dwyer, Daniel the “Miracle Beagle” has used his second chance at life as an advocate for shelter adoptions and humane euthanasia legislation across the United States. (Charity Partner: The Pine Street Foundation).
Winner: TABITHA (South Bend, IN) – Guide dog Tabitha is more than just a guide dog to her former guardian, Ann Drake, who lost her sight as an adult. Tabitha guided Ann back to a place within herself where she found the confidence that she had lost and overcame the fears of her new life. With Tabitha by her side, Ann went on to complete her undergraduate and graduate studies. (Charity Partner: Leader Dogs for the Blind).
Winner: TATIANA II (Plantation, FL) - Hearing dog, Tatiana II, was matched with handler Cristina Saint-Blancard in 2011 as her hearing dog but quickly turned into her life-saving hero. Cristina suffers from asthma which is exacerbated by frequent ear infections and one night found herself struggling for breath and soon completely without breath. Tatiana II was quick to notice something was wrong and ran into the next room to alert Cristina’s family. If not for Tatiana II that night, Cristina would not have gone on to graduate from Purdue University last December with Tatiana II by her side. (Charity Partner: Dogs for the Deaf).
Winner: JYNX (Shillington, PA) – On the evening of June 29, 2011, Law Enforcement-Arson K-9 Jynx desperately worked to try and pull his guardian Sgt.Kyle Pagerly and another officer out of harm’s way as a crime suspect opened fire during a routine warrant delivery. 28-year-old Sgt. Pagerly was killed in the line of duty leaving behind his pregnant wife. If not for the swift and heroic efforts of K-9 Jynx, more officers would have lost their lives that night. (Charity Partner: K9s4COPs).
Winner: GABE (Columbia, SC) – Retired MWD Sgt. Gabe has served our great country since 2006 when he first reported for duty. From training in Ft. Lewis, WA to completing over 210 combat missions with 26 explosive and weapons finds in Iraq, MWD Sgt. Gabe still made time throughout the day to bring love and joy to his comrades. Since retiring in 2009, MWD Sgt. Gabe has earned over 40 awards and coins of excellence for his heroic work and spends his free time educating children on the value of respect and staying in school. (Charity Partner: The United States War Dog Association, Inc.)
Winner: SOOT (Charleston, WV) – West Virginia Search and Rescue K-9 Soot, didn’t know he had a big job ahead of him when he was adopted by Lorraine Burdette. Soot’s training in air scent, scent discrimination, and certified search and rescue wilderness training gave him the tools he needed to rescue a lost 78-year-old diabetic hunter lost in the wilderness on a cold December morning. (Charity Partner: The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve).
Winner: HOLLY (Magna, UT) – Seizure alert Service Dog Holly never takes her attention away from her guardian, Shanna Wilkinson, who suffers from epileptic seizures. With Holly by her side, Shanna is able to embrace all of life’s gifts and challenges without fear. Together they travel and together they teach elementary students the importance of Service Dogs. (Charity Partner: International Association of Assistance Dog Partners).
Winner: STELLA (Mt. Kisco, NY) – Therapy Dog Stella and her guardian Marissa Levy, dedicate their time to bringing love and joy to the residents at Richmond Community Services, a not-for-profit organization that cares for developmentally disabled children and adults. Stella is unfazed by disabilities and diseases – befriending and with time, unconditionally loving all she meets. Stella is the sunshine that beats the cloudy days for the residents and for that they are so appreciative. (Charity Partner: Angel On A Leash).
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 the 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.
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 over 87 million subscribers. The top-tier program service is distributed through approximately 5,500 cable systems and communities as well as direct-to-home satellite services across the country. 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, Frasier, Little House on the Prairie, and The Waltons. Since 2010, Hallmark Channel has also been home to original daytime lifestyle programming and is debuting two new daily series, Home & Family and Marie, on October 1, 2012. Hallmark Channel's sibling network is Hallmark Movie Channel, also available in HD and SD, which focuses on family-friendly movies with a mix of classic theatrical films, presentations from the acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame library, original Hallmark Channel movies and special events. For more information, please visit www.hallmarkchannelpress.com
Hallmark Channel’s Pet Project is a multi-faceted initiative devoted to celebrating pets and the incredible joy and enrichment they bring to our lives. To carry out our mission, we’ll be bringing you compelling original programming, social media outreach, and a resource-rich website. Through public service announcements, local grass-roots events, and strategic partnerships with such national non-profit organizations as American Humane Association and PetSmart Charities, Hallmark Channel’s Pet Project also aims to shine a spotlight on this country’s epidemic of pet homelessness and provide the public with the information and resources they need to find their new best friend. For more information, please visit http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/petproject
MRB's feature department is in post-production on the psychological thriller Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, starring Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina, while MRB's political activism biopic, starring Jason Biggs, is currently in theaters. Emmy award winning MRB recently won a Webby for The Confession, starring Kiefer Sutherland. In Television, MRB has a decade of experience producing the pre-taped segments and VIP program for ESPN's ESPY Awards, in addition to producing the inaugural Hero Dog Awards for the Hallmark Channel. Additional TV projects include two seasons of the mockumentary comedy show Free Radio on VH1 and Comedy Central. In the video game space, MRB partners with Ubisoft on the Just Dance Kids series. MRB's commercial repertoire includes a longstanding relationship with Mattel and collaborations with Periera & O'Dell, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Publicis, for clients such as Samsung, NHL, Smirnoff, Wal-Mart, and University of Phoenix.
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.