Animal Action Award winners inspire

As someone who has loved animals since as long as I could walk, I realise how lucky I am to be working within the animal welfare sector and knowing that I can use my skills and experience every day to help animals in need in the UK and internationally.

There are some days when I am quite simply humbled by those I meet, amazing people who remind me that whatever we as humans do to help our animal friends, there are always those that seem to have gone that extra mile to make a difference. 

Each year, IFAW's Animal Action Awards ceremony at the prestigious House of Lords gives me and my colleagues, alongside a host of celebrity and high profile guests, the chance to be awe-struck by a selection of the country's most passionate and committed animal lovers. 

This year's Animal Action Awards, each presented by conservationist, broadcaster and all around TV hero Bill Oddie, were a chance to recognise that passion and commitment and to say thank you to those who truly deserve some high-profile recognition. 

People sometimes seem to forget that animals can't talk, so they can't say thank you for mending their broken leg, for treating them after a road traffic accident, for hand rearing them through the night when they've been orphaned or abandoned. But, IFAW can.

This year's winners were once again an eclectic mix of heroes and I was honoured to be in their presence. There were 10 awards - nine for humans and one for an animal (can you guess which one got the most attention!), and each of them had dedicated their lives to helping animals in need - be it through years of fundraising for animals, or through helping swans, foxes, hedgehogs, greyhounds and lurchers, horses, or through wildlife rescue centres that take all comers. One winner targeted people rather than animals to make a difference - having taught more than 50,000 children and adults about the value of wildlife over the years.

Then there was the four-legged winner - a golden Labrador dog called Maisie. Maisie acts not only as a soul mate but also as a Medical Detection Dog (like an early detection system) for her owner, nine-year-old Alena Hughes, by sniffing out whenever Alena, who has Type 1 Diabetes, needs urgent insulin to prevent her from falling into a coma. Maisie even reacts differently depending on the severity of the pending attack. Another reminder, for anyone that needs it, as to why animals and humans need each other. 

IFAW's Animal Action Awards are by far my most favourite day of the year and they serve as a reminder for all of my colleagues at IFAW and within the animal welfare sector to stay focused and to never rest on our laurels and think we are doing enough. 

Someone at the awards said thank you to me and IFAW for hosting the ceremony, but those thanks are so misguided. We don't deserve the thanks here - thank you Animal Action heroes for all that you do on behalf of every single animal you have ever helped. 

This year’s full list of winners:

  •  Joan Lockley, from the Midlands, for rescuing more than 5,000 hedgehogs;
  • Dorothy Beeson, from Middlesex, for a lifetime’s dedication to rescuing sick and injured swans;
  • Sue Burton, from Essex, for rescuing abandoned horses and campaigning for improved equine welfare;
  • Martin Hemmington, from Northamptonshire, for creating a network of volunteers to protect foxes across the UK;
  •  Pip Singleton, from Worcestershire, for rehabilitating and finding forever homes for ‘problem’ and ‘death row’ dogs;
  • Ray Jackson, from Cheshire, for educating more than 50,000 children and adults about conservation and the environment while also running a wildlife hospital;
  • Samantha Bedford, from Bedfordshire, for running a wildlife rescue centre specialising in the rehabilitation of wild birds;
  • Tony Carlisle, from South Shields, for raising more than £6.3 million for animal causes, primarily through his record-breaking Great North Dog Walk;
  •  Roy and Annie Marriott, from Northamptonshire, for working around the clock to rescue sick and injured wild and domestic animals;
  • Maisie the Dog, from Doncaster, for keeping her nine-year-old owner and best friend Alena Hughes out of medical danger every day.


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