A group of remarkable and heroic animals and people were honored by the ASPCA at this year’s Humane Awards Luncheon on November 17 in New York City. The ceremony recognized animal heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts as well as individuals who have shown great commitment to animal welfare during the past year.
“These awards recognize not just the heroism of particular animals, individuals, and organizations, but the incredible bond between people and their animals,” said ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker. “The accomplishments of these honorees demonstrate how much can be achieved when we recognize and support those ties.”
Following a nationwide public call for nominations, an ASPCA-appointed committee reviewed hundreds of entries and selected winners in eight categories. The 2016 ASPCA Humane Award winners are:
ASPCA Dog of the Year: Ruthie
Most comfort dogs work in hospitals or other care centers, helping people cope with everyday stresses. But Ruthie, a Golden Retriever, has been called to service during some of the nation’s most tragic and devastating events, including the Orlando nightclub shooting, the shooting of police officers in Dallas, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Newtown school shooting, as well as tornadoes in Oklahoma and wildfires in California.
At those sites, Ruthie has provided relief to both victims and responders, keeping stress levels down, and providing comfort to grief-stricken survivors. Ruthie’s presence was particularly impactful during her six weeks in Newtown, the scene of the Sandy Hook tragedy, where she helped traumatized young girls and boys—who hadn’t spoken since the shootings—come out of their shells.
See a video of Ruthie! »
ASPCA Cat of the Year: Blake
Blake, a black cat in Fort Worth, Texas, had no idea what was in store for him when Glen Schallman walked into the Humane Society of North Texas last winter. Blake had been going through a tough time since being rescued from a hoarding situation and undergoing a host of veterinary procedures. But his life changed when Schallman, who suffers from three serious brain conditions and daily intense seizures, showed up simply looking for a new friend. Blake literally jumped up and down to get Schallman’s attention, and the two bonded immediately.
Schallman suffered a seizure the same day he brought Blake home, and Blake reacted by patting Schallman’s arm with his paws. A few days later, Blake proved he truly understood Schallman’s dilemma when Schallman had a life-threatening seizure while sleeping. Blake saved Schallman’s life by alerting him with a sharp bite to his toe. Schallman says that Blake has a sixth sense about detecting oncoming seizures and credits the cat with saving his life.
See a video of Blake! »
ASPCA Public Service Award: CPPD K9, Kiah
In July 2015, the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department welcomed K9 Kiah, a new narcotics detection and missing persons tracking dog, to their ranks. The department has had several police dogs in the past, but unlike the typical police dog, Kiah is a rescued pit bull. As the first pit bull police dog in the state of New York, she has become a national sensation and is blazing a new path for other police departments and pit bulls around the country.
Before joining the City of Poughkeepsie PD, Kiah was a stray, found injured and abandoned in a parking lot. She was rescued by the staff of Kirby Animal Care Services in San Antonio, who quickly recognized her friendly demeanor and tireless energy. They reached out to Brad Croft, the trainer and founder of Universal K9, who facilitates a program funded by the Animal Farm Foundation to train rescued pit bulls for law enforcement work. After just a month of training, Kiah earned recognition as one of the most willing and dedicated law enforcement dogs Universal K9 has ever seen. Kiah was placed with Officer Justin Bruzgul at no cost to the City of Poughkeepsie PD, and in no time became his partner, his best friend and a beloved member of his family.
In addition to their regular beats, Kiah and Officer Bruzgul visit schools and conferences to educate the public about the importance of animal shelters and animal rescue. Kiah is also an ambassador for pit bulls nationwide, demonstrating that rescued pit bulls can perform the same law enforcement work traditionally reserved for other breeds, and that any dog can have amazing underlying potential.
See a video of Kiah! »
ASPCA Presidential Service Award: Senator Bob Dole
ASPCA President & CEO Matthew Bershadker with Senator Bob Dole
With 35 years in Congress and experience as a decorated soldier, former Senator Bob Dole is well known for serving his country, but less well known is his lifelong service to animals in need.
In office, Dole – who for years came to work with his miniature Schnauzer, Leader, at his side – championed humane legislation, advocated for animals in crisis, and brought critical attention to important animal issues. In 1974, after learning the U.S. Army experimented with toxic chemicals on Beagles, Dole introduced a bill outlawing the practice. He championed important amendments to the Humane Slaughter Act, which mandated unprecedented humane standards and inspections for facilities producing meat for the public. In 1984, he was awarded the ASPCA Award for Humane Excellence for his consistent commitment to protecting animals in research and other vulnerable animals in the U.S.
Since his retirement from politics in 1996, the 93-year-old Dole has remained active in the animal welfare cause, advocating for a permanent ban on horse slaughter, protecting the pets of domestic violence victims, and condemning the barbaric treatment of farm animals at the USDA’s U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC). His advocacy helped encourage Congress to take action to ensure the facility’s compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. As recently as July, Dole graciously participated in a series of ASPCA events in Washington D.C. that showcase the selfless work of our nation’s animal shelters and the importance of passing key animal welfare legislation.
See a video of Senator Dole »
ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Award: Dr. Jim Keen
Watch the video »
ASPCA Horse of the Year Award: Sutter, Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary
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ASPCA Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year Award: Willow Phelps
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Congratulations to this year’s recipients! Click through to learn more about all the winners of the 2016 Humane Awards.