Friday, November 8, 2013

ASPCA announces 2013 Humane Awards winners

Via PR Newswire - A group of outstanding animals and people will be honored at this year's ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City. The ceremony recognizes special animals as well as individuals who made a positive and lasting impact during the past year.

“This year’s Humane Awards winners not only exemplify our mission of preventing cruelty to animals, but bring greater awareness to the unique and meaningful bond between humans and their pets,” said ASPCA President & CEO Matthew Bershadker. “We’re humbled by their achievements and their dedication to the voiceless and vulnerable animals who bring us so much joy.”

The ASPCA's annual Humane Awards Luncheon will be held on Thursday, November 21 in New York City. The 2013 ASPCA Humane Awards winners are:

ASPCA Cat of the Year - Koshka

Koshka the cat’s story begins across the world at the front lines of war. Koshka was a stray when she struck up a friendship with Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott at a base in southern Afghanistan. To Knott, she was a pleasant reminder of life at home in faraway Oregon. When a suicide bomber attacked a nearby military convoy, killing two of his close friends, Koshka stayed by Knott’s side helping him through one of his darkest moments.

After his duty in Afghanistan ended, Knott worked hard to transport his beloved cat to the United States. Koshka was not allowed to travel on a military convoy, so Knott’s friends arranged her transport to Kabul through a compassionate and courageous interpreter who risked his life to help the American. Knott’s parents then paid nearly $3,000 for the airplane ticket that would eventually bring Koshka to her new home in Oregon, where she now peacefully resides.

ASPCA Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year – Catherine V. Hubbard

Six-year-old Catherine Hubbard had a natural ability to connect and care for animals. She loved being in their presence, and was often heard whispering to animals and insects, "Tell your friends I am kind," so they would come back to her again. She even designed her own business cards and appointed herself head of "Catherine's Animal Shelter" with the title "Care Taker." On December 14, 2012, Catherine was among 20 children killed during a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Catherine's parents, Jenny and Matthew Hubbard, chose to honor Catherine's compassion for animals throughout her whole life, by asking that donations be made to the Animal Center in Newtown. With these funds, the Animal Center is hoping to build, in her honor, the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, "a place where all creatures, great and small, are rescued, respected and loved."

ASPCA Presidential Service Award for Media Excellence – Dan Harris

Dan Harris is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has co-anchored ABC News' weekend edition of "Good Morning America" since October 2010. In his distinguished career, Harris has made it a priority to report on the world's most vulnerable populations including endangered animals. Harris has also worked tirelessly to raise awareness of animal welfare issues in America, including coverage of Hurricane Sandy, online pet scams and travel safety.

In June 2012 in honor of Adopt a Shelter Cat month, Harris worked with the ASPCA to produce a comic viral video called "Hovercat." The video, which encourages pet adoptions, has received over 1.1 million views since its launch and garnered national media attention.

ASPCA Henry Bergh Award – Theresa Strader 

Before founding National Mill Dog Rescue, Theresa Strader spent 26 years as a pediatric nurse, all the while rescuing dogs and volunteering in animal shelters across the country. Early in 2007, responding to an email plea for "50 Italian greyhounds in need", Strader attended a large-scale dog auction in the Midwest - the heart of puppy mill country. Within moments of witnessing firsthand the miserable, hopeless life of puppy mill dogs, Strader knew that she would dedicate the rest of her life to the dogs held captive by this shameful industry.

In February of that year, Strader founded the nonprofit National Mill Dog Rescue, which has since rescued and placed over 8,000 puppy mill survivors and has garnered national attention for its tireless and challenging work. Run almost solely by volunteers, the organization's mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome discarded breeding dogs, and to educate the public about the cruel realities of the commercial dog breeding industry.

ASPCA Dog of the Year - Xena 

On September 15, 2012, an animal control officer responded to a call reporting an extremely malnourished pit bull puppy abandoned in a Dekalb County, Ga. Chrissy Kaczynski, one of the founders of Friends of Dekalb Animals (FODA), says she'd never seen such a severe case of neglect. The puppy's prognosis was bleak, but Chrissy took her home, intending to make her last hours as comfortable as possible. Remarkably, the puppy rebounded, prompting Chrissy to name her Xena, the Warrior Puppy.

Two months later, at a party in Xena's honor, the puppy bonded with the Hickey family and their eight-year-old son, Jonny, who is autistic. Before Xena came into his life, Jonny very rarely communicated with others, and sought comfort in solitary activities. But Jonny forged a miraculous connection with Xena that brought out Jonny's playfulness, his singing voice, and verbal assessments of everything he sees and experiences.

Together, Jonny and Xena spread a message of compassion for both animals and those with autism throughout America and 89 countries, territories and provinces around the world. Their efforts include a YouTube video to promote Autism Awareness Month as well as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Xena has participated in the Atlanta Dog Jog and Atlanta Autism Speaks walk, appeared at fundraisers for FODA, and received a medal from the Georgia SPCA.

ASPCA Public Service Award – Dion R. Dundovich, Bruce W. Huston and Karen J. Smiglis

The three recipients of the ASPCA 2013 Public Service Award played pivotal roles in investigating and raiding a large dog fighting operation in Missouri, Kansas and Texas in March 2013. The operation resulted in the recovery of 100 pit bull terriers that were being bred, sold and trained to fight, as well as the arrests of Pete Davis Jr. and Melvin Robinson, who were each charged with one count of buying, selling, delivering or transporting animals for participation in an animal fighting venture.The dogs were rescued by the ASPCA at the request of the FBI, Missouri State Highway Patrol and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Master Patrolman Dundovich served as co-case agent for this investigation, dedicating numerous hours culminating in the execution of a search, multiple arrests and the rescue of multiple animals in the state of Texas. Sergeant Houston worked with Officer Dundovich and Special Agent Smilgis to apprehend the subjects before the next scheduled dog fight could take place in Texas. Special Agent Smilgis served as the FBI's primary investigator and case agent for this multi-state, multi-agency investigation.

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