ASPCA Announces 2012 Humane Awards Winners

Paralyzed cat, canine viral video star among those who will be honored at annual luncheon
October 18, 2012

NEW YORK—A group of outstanding animals and people—including a rescue dog with more than 5.5 million views on YouTube and a 10-year-old horse advocate who has appeared before Congress—will be honored at this year’s ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City. The ceremony recognizes special animals as well as individuals who have made a significant impact on the lives of animals during the past year.

"The ASPCA continues to be astounded by the bravery and compassion of this year's Humane Awards winners," said ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres. "Each honoree exemplifies our mission of preventing cruelty to animals in their own unique ways, and we are humbled by their achievements and dedication to the animals who count on us to be their voice."

The ASPCA's Annual Humane Awards Luncheon—sponsored by the Hartville Group, Inc., one of America's oldest pet health insurers and provider of ASPCA Pet Health Insurance—will be held on Thursday, November 8, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. 

Following a nationwide call to the public for nominations in February, an ASPCA-appointed committee reviewed hundreds of entries and selected winners in six categories.

The 2012 ASPCA Humane Award winners are:

ASPCA Dog of the Year
Abandoned in a trash heap behind an auto body shop in South Los Angeles, Calif., Fiona, an 11-year-old poodle mix, was sick, covered in dirt, matted, infested with fleas and blind in both eyes. Fortunately, Audrey and Eldad Hagar, founders of Los Angeles-based animal rescue group Hope for Paws, came to Fiona’s aid. They cleaned and cared for her and took her to a veterinary ophthalmologist who confirmed her vision in one eye could be restored with surgery. Hope for Paws posted Fiona's rescue video online, hoping to raise enough money for the expensive surgery. With the help of hundreds of donors all over the world, they raised the fundsfor her surgery, and Fiona was soon adopted into the loving home of Michele and Chris Gentry of Los Angeles, CA and three poodle sisters. Fiona’s miraculous story of survival has since garnered more than 5.5 million views online, a testament to what can be accomplished when homeless animals get a second chance.

ASPCA Cat of the Year
To most, Scooter the cat seemed yet another unfortunate case of an injured kitten who was abandoned, but thanks to a few caring individuals, he now helps others overcome their own difficulties and disabilities. Scooter was found by a dog as he lay helpless on the street with no use of his back legs, and he was rushed to Harts Run Veterinary Hospital in Fox Chapel, Pa. While many veterinarians may have given up on Scooter, Dr. Betsy Kennon decided to do all she could to save his life. Visitors to the hospital instantly fell in love with the fluffy black and white kitten, collectively donating funds to purchase him a custom-made wheeled mobility device.

Scooter now visits a nursing home and rehabilitation hospital every week and serves as a constant inspiration to the elderly and to patients who lack mobility due to injuries and strokes. During one of Scooter's first hospital visits, a stroke victim who doctors said would never open her eyes or speak watched as the cat snuggled up close to her. It was then that Scooter had worked his first miracle: the patient opened her eyes and began chatting away like they were old friends.

ASPCA "Tommy P. Monahan" Kid of the Year
After hearing about the inhumane and cruel practice of horse slaughter, now 10-year-old Declan Gregg of Greenland, N.H. decided to raise his voice and get involved. Declan started his own blog, Children 4 Horses, to spread the word about horse advocacy issues and worked diligently with the Million Horse March campaign to collect letters from children to inspire lawmakers to end the slaughter of American horses. Declan’s dedication to horse advocacy brought him to the nation’s capital twice in recent months, where he represented over 1,000 children from the United States and abroad by presenting the letters to legislators in Congress. In addition to his Washington visits, Declan testified at a hearing for a bill opposing horse slaughter at the New Hampshire State House in January. Declan’s blog, read by individuals in more than 80 countries, provides commentary on horse advocacy issues and also includes horse poetry, horse news, photos, Declan’s artwork and stories about other kids who have made a difference helping horses.

This award is dedicated to Tommy P. Monahan, a 9-year-old Staten Island boy who perished in 2007 trying to save his dog from a house fire.

ASPCA Public Service Award
The three recipients of the 2012 Public Service award played pivotal roles in the investigation and raid of a large dog fighting operation in Bronx, N.Y. The investigation resulted in the removal of 50 dogs that were bred and trained to fight, as well as the arrest of Raul Sanchez, the building's superintendent, who was charged with 63 counts of animal fighting and other related charges. The dogs were rescued in late June by the ASPCA, at the request of the NYPD Vice Enforcement Division and Bronx District Attorney's office, and were transferred to a temporary shelter, where they were triaged by the ASPCA's veterinary medical team and later individually evaluated by the ASPCA's Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team. Many of the dogs have since been adopted, living their lives with loving families they deserve.

  • Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Brandler has amassed a noteworthy record of animal cruelty and animal fighting convictions since joining the Bronx District Attorney's Office in 2007. Brandler has been integral to the evidence collection, arrest and ongoing matters of this criminal case. She is currently pursuing additional leads as to other areas in the Bronx where dog fighting may be occurring, with the hope that these will lead to more arrests and the rescue of additional dogs. 
  • Detective Investigator John Reilly has been with the Bronx District Attorney's Office since 2005, and routinely assists the NYPD in developing cases involving homicide, organized crime and gang activity. Reilly’s dedication to this animal cruelty case was instrumental in bringing the nearly year-long Sherman Avenue dog fighting investigation to fruition.
  • NYPD Detective John Zerafa of the Bronx Vice Major Case Unit has amassed over 600 arrests in his 15 years with the NYPD. Detective Zerafa's commitment to the nearly year-long investigation, which he handled while maintaining his current caseload, is a testament to his unyielding efforts to protect New York City's animals from cruelty.

ASPCA Henry Bergh Award
PetSmart Charities® is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to end pet homelessness by building awareness, engaging communities and creating and funding life-saving programs for pets. PetSmart Charities is the largest funder of companion animal welfare efforts in North America, and has provided more than $165 million in grants and programs benefiting animal welfare organizations. More than 5 million pets have found homes at the adoption centers located inside every PetSmart store. (PetSmart stores do not sell dogs and cats).

ASPCA Presidential Service Award for Media Excellence
Jill Rappaport has been a NBC Today correspondent for 21 years, serving as the Entertainment correspondent for the first 16. When her beloved dog Jack was diagnosed with bone cancer, she chronicled his illness on the show and realized then that animal welfare issues were her calling. She now keeps Today viewers informed about rescue, adoption and welfare with her popular, award-winning "Bow to Wow" series, where shelter dogs and cats get makeovers and a second chance at life. To date, 100 percent of the animals featured have been adopted into loving homes. Through her work she has also helped hundreds of retired racehorses that were severely abused find wonderful permanent homes.

Rappaport is the beneficiary of numerous awards for her contributions to the animal welfare community. She is also the best-selling author of People We Know, Horses they Love, and three other books, including Jack & Jill: The Miracle Dog with a Happy Tail to Tell, and 500 Cats. Rappaport's line of pet supplies, including her line for Pendleton, and the just launched "Jill Rappaport Rescued Me Collection" promotes animal rescue and pet adoption.  A portion of the proceeds from her collection benefit animal-cancer research and shelters. In 2012, she also partnered with London Jewelers to launch her equestrian jewelry line, "Hannah’s Heart," named after her late, beloved mare. Proceeds benefit the ASPCA and the HSUS. Rappaport lives on a farm with her five rescue dogs and seven horses, who she calls her "fur angels."