For millions of Americans, animals are not just their best friends, but their heroes. And behind every hero pet is a hero veterinarian or hero veterinary nurse. These often little-known benefactors save and improve the lives of our furry friends every day. Today, on the International Day of Veterinary Medicine, we honor those who have dedicated their careers to bettering the lives of animals, and we thank you.
Each year, we pay tribute to the achievements of an amazing veterinarian and veterinary nurse through the American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards™, presented by Zoetis Petcare. Pet owners and animal lovers alike are invited to nominate their favorite veterinary professionals who are dedicated to the betterment of the health and welfare of animals and the promotion of the human-animal bond. This year, after a nationwide search and tens of thousands of public votes, Dr. Mary Kate Lawler from Houston, Texas was named 2021’s American Hero Veterinarian, and Jill Elston from Milan, Pennsylvania was declared 2021’s American Hero Veterinary Nurse.
Dr. Mary Kate Lawler has graced the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program with her proficient leadership for more than 10 years. Her tireless work and dedication allow her to perform as many as 8,500 spay/neuter surgeries each year. When the last surgery is finished each day and the patients are recovering, she deftly shifts to her role as executive director. Her exemplary veterinary skills, business acumen and compassion keep the SNAP team focused on their mission. Dr. Lawler also traveled extensively and has participated in spay/neuter clinics in India, Mexico, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, American Samoa, Hawaii and on the reservations in the American Southwest. Her unwavering dedication for the well-being of the people and pets of the community have pushed her to persevere through hurricanes, fires and pandemics. She is a hero in the eyes of those she leads and the vast number of companion animals whose lives she has improved.
Dr. Mary Kate Lawler with Staff Sergeant Summer, the 2021 Military Hero Dog
Jill Elson is the embodiment of a Hero Veterinary Nurse. Shelter medicine has always been her passion, and a couple years after graduation she found her true purpose working at Animal Care Sanctuary, serving and caring for those who have no home, protecting the wounded and abused and giving a chance to those everyone else gave up on. She courageously leads a team of veterinary professionals who provide veterinary care in an underserved rural area, and Jill herself has become the St. Jude of ACS, “Mama Jill’s Home for Lost Souls.” She is always first in line to take home the sad, broken, sick, abused or neglected. She regularly rehabilitates fearful dogs and helps sick animals recover. Her special project, however, is being a hospice for older dogs and cats who aren’t candidates for adoption, but who still deserve the dignity of a home and a family at the end of their lives. For all cats and dogs, she offers up her own home, giving them a chance to flourish in comfortable conditions, receiving the best food and care, a lively lifestyle and a warm, soft spot next to Jill in her recliner.
Jill Elston with Sobee, the 2021 Service Hero Dog
Dr. Lawler and Ms. Elston are remarkable animal welfare advocates, and we are proud to honor those that go above and beyond to provide essential veterinary medicine and care.
Veterinarians and veterinary nurses are heroes to the animals they serve. Today, on the International Day of Veterinary Medicine, we urge you to thank your veterinary doctor – send them a note or a card expressing your gratitude for their unwavering service.