Touching ceremony at House of Lords honours more everyday animal heroes
Despite all the hard work and stress behind the scenes, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) annual Animal Action Awards ceremony at the House of Lords is one of the most enjoyable events in our UK office calendar.
After reading through hundreds of nominations and having the difficult job of narrowing down many shortlists to reach our final tally of unsung heroes of animal welfare, we also need to juggle the diaries of celebrities, other VIPs, media and politicians to make sure the event runs as smoothly as possible and that our hard-working winners enjoy their special moment – for many it is their first day off away from animal care in many years, or even decades for some, and we strive to make it as memorable as possible.
For those of us who work in campaigning and spend so much of our time lobbying and talking about the cruelty and suffering inflicted on animals, the awards are a chance to celebrate the positive and reflect on the unique relationship between animals and people.
Every year we are moved by our winners’ stories of overwhelming devotion to animal welfare and we are sure that they will inspire many others to do their bit for the many creatures with whom we share our planet.
This year’s full list of winners are Elizabeth McDonagh, from Cumbria, who offers refuge to the pets of terminally ill people going into hospice care who can no longer look after their animals at home.
Receiving awards alongside Elizabeth were Niall Lester, from London, who rescues ‘death row’ stray dogs and cares for them at home until long-term care or new homes can be found and vet Helen Pringle, from Hertfordshire, who devotes her spare time to saving injured wildlife, from frogs to hedgehogs, as well as treating rescued dogs.
Also honoured was renowned conservationist Ian Redmond, from Gloucestershire, for his work around the world protecting gorillas, elephants and other wildlife. Barbara Mladek, known as ‘Mama Hen’ from County Down, Northern Ireland, received an award for rescuing and rehoming thousands of battery and commercially farmed hens.
Elsewhere, Jayne Hayes, from Newport in Wales, was recognised for founding DogLost, a not for profit organisation which has helped reunite more than 35,000 lost dogs with their owners over the last 10 years.
Awards were also presented to Lynne Parker, from Dorset, for her work to rehabilitate injured and abandoned birds and Ann Knowles, from Surrey, was honoured for more than 50 years of dedication to rescuing and rehoming cats.
As always, in addition to our human winners, we also honoured one animal with a very special tale to share. There was hardly a dry eye in the house as this year’s animal bravery award was announced.
It went to Geo, a young German Shepherd-collie cross dog who suffered horrific injuries when he pushed 10-year-old owner Charlie Riley, from Essex, out of the path of a runaway lorry and took the full impact of the collision himself. He was knocked into the road then hit by the lorry again as the driver left without stopping.
Despite suffering a broken back, shattered legs and damaged lungs in the crash, Geo pulled through, and his proud owners declared him a hero for saving Charlie from injury.
As Charlie’s mother Carly explained, despite being faced with huge vet bills to treat Geo, they never once considered having him put down. As well as saving her son, Geo is simply part of the family.
We would like to thank naturalist and broadcaster Bill Oddie, who hosted this year’s ceremony, for his sparkling narration, as well as our sponsors the Sunday Express newspaper and Animal Friends Insurance.