Posted: Oct. 7, 2013, 4:25 p.m. EDT
Elle, a female pit bull who helps students learn to read and overcome their fear of dogs, was named the 2013 American Hero Dog during a ceremony Sunday that also honored seven other canine stars and three people.
The American Humane Association’s third Hero Dog Awards was held in Los Angeles in front of celebrities such as Betty White, Ryan O’Neal, Naomi Judd and Victoria Stillwell. The red-carpet gala was taped for broadcast Oct. 30 on the Hallmark Channel.
More than 140 dogs were nominated for awards. The winners were chosen through more than 1 million public votes and a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges.
Elle was honored for her work with schools, a retirement home and families. The Roanoke Rapids, N.C., therapy dog is used to teach dog bite avoidance and responsible pet ownership, participates in a student reading program, and spreads awareness about breeds such as pit bulls.
"As an organization that for years has fought breed-specific legislation, we are also pleased to honor a breed that has been often been unjustly maligned,” said Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association. "We hope that Elle’s story will help to underscore the many tremendously positive qualities of this breed.”
Elle, a newly minted Hero Dog, helps children enjoy books and improve their reading skills through a program called "Tail Wagging Tales.”
American Humane Association
Seven other category winners were recognized for what Ganzert called their heroic
"These courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people,” she said.
Among the canine winners:
• Cassidy of Midvale, Utah (Emerging Hero Dog): Having lost his leg after being hit by a car, the stray was taken in by Sheltie Rescue of Utah and with his new owner, Kathy, became a special-needs advocate who helps teach children about disabilities.
• Jingles of Amsterdam, N.Y. (Guide Dog): The mixed-breed canine works in tandem with a diabetic-alert dog to assist disabled owner Karen Ann.
• Lola of Bellingham, Wash. (Hearing Dog): The rescue dog alerts her deaf owner, Charlene, to everything from oven timers to doorbells to telephone calls.
• Lakota of Locust Grove, Ga. (Law Enforcement/Arson Dog): The police K9 and his partner, officer Travis Fox, participated in arrests, drug seizures and other cases before an on-duty car accident forced the canine into early retirement.
• Carlos of Colorado Springs, Colo. (Military Dog): The military working dog retired in 2011 after five years of deployment as an explosives detection specialist in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• John D of Little Rock, Ark. (Search and Rescue Dog): The canine looks for missing people after kidnappings, disasters, drownings and other emergencies. He also can sniff out ovarian cancer and other cancers in people.
• SD Bronx of Brunswick, Ga. (Service Dog): The canine recognizes when his owner, Christopher, is about to have a seizure, then alerts others.
Three people were honored as well:
• Philanthropist Lois Pope received the Legacy Award for her support of the American Humane Association’s Red Star
rescue services, the Hero Dog Awards and other charitable endeavors.
• Country singer Miranda Lambert was awarded the National Humanitarian Medal for her dedication to helping animals in need.
• Gus Arrendale, president of Springer Mountain Farms in Mount Airy, Ga., was recognized for being the first major poultry producer to voluntarily enroll in the American Humane Certified program.
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