Every year, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA®) honors outstanding animals and people for their heroic deeds at their Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City. This year’s luncheon – sponsored by The Hartville Group – will be held on Thursday, November 11th, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. The ceremony "recognizes animal heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts, as well as individuals who have made a significant impact on the lives of animals during the past year". Since a nationwide call to the public for nominations in February, an ASPCA-appointed committee has reviewed hundreds of entries and has selected winners.
This year’s Dog of the Year is a 4-year old Labrador Retriever called Pearl who was surrendered by her owner to a local animal shelter. Pearl was discovered by volunteers from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) based in Ojai, California, and quickly completed her training and certification as a search dog. In July 2008, she met her handler and life companion, Ron Horetski of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
On January 14, 2010, Horetski and Pearl were deployed as part of the Los Angeles County Task Force 2 (CA-TF2) team to save victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The CA-TF2 team spent over two weeks in Haiti; Horetski and Pearl, along with six other SDF canine disaster search teams, spent hours each day searching for victims trapped alive under the rubble. Pearl and the other SDF teams dug through concrete and debris – as far as four stories below the surface – and helped bring 12 people to safety.
And this year’s Cat of the Year is a cat called Henry, who was found by Cathy Conheim as a stray kitten on her property in Julian, California. Henry required medical treatment on his left left and subsequently had to have his leg amputated. After Henry’s recovery, the two began working together to help people learn tolerance and resilience in the face of physical disabilities and differences. The pair created several children’s workbooks and books, "Henry’s World," "What’s the Matter with Henry?" and "What About Me, I’m Here Too," which have been distributed to more than 45,000 people around the world, including victims of Hurricane Katrina and families of wounded veterans. To date, Henry’s books have generated more than $50,000 for local animal welfare groups to help other animals in need.
Photograph courtesy Henry’s World