A group of outstanding animals and people—including a 6-year-old who left behind a legacy of kindness to animals—are honored at the ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City. The ceremony recognizes special animals as well as individuals who made a positive and lasting impact during the past year.
“This year’s Humane Awards winners not only exemplify our mission of preventing cruelty to animals, but bring greater awareness to the unique and meaningful bond between humans and their pets,” says ASPCA President & CEO Matthew Bershadker. “We’re humbled by their achievements and their dedication to the voiceless and vulnerable animals who bring us so much joy.”
Following a nationwide public call for nominations, an ASPCA-appointed committee reviewed hundreds of entries and selected winners in six categories. The 2013 ASPCA Humane Award winners are:
ASPCA Dog of the Year
Dekalb County, Georgia
On September 15, 2012, an animal control officer responded to a call reporting an extremely malnourished pit bull puppy abandoned in a Dekalb County, Ga. resident’s yard. The officer took the fragile puppy, on the verge of death, to the Dekalb Animal Shelter. Chrissy Kaczynski, one of the founders of Friends of Dekalb Animals (FODA), says she’d never seen such a severe case of neglect.The puppy’s prognosis was bleak, but Chrissy took her home, intending to make her last hours as comfortable as possible.
Remarkably, the puppy rebounded, prompting Chrissy and her partner, Aaron, to name her Xena, the Warrior Puppy. Soon after, they started a Facebook page to help raise funds for Xena’s treatment and chronicle her amazing recovery. Friends and fans were mesmerized by Xena’s story. Two months later, at a party in Xena’s honor, the puppy bonded with the Hickey family and their eight-year-old son, Jonny, who is autistic.
Before Xena came into his life, Jonny very rarely communicated with others, and sought comfort in solitary activities. But Jonny forged a miraculous connection with Xena that brought out Jonny’s playfulness, his singing voice, and verbal assessments of everything he sees and experiences.
Together, Jonny and Xena spread a message of compassion for both animals and those with autism throughout America and 89 countries, territories and provinces around the world. Their efforts include a YouTube video to promote Autism Awareness Month as well as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Xena has participated in the Atlanta Dog Jog and Atlanta Autism Speaks walk, appeared at fundraisers for FODA, and received a medal from the Georgia SPCA. Jonny and Xena‘s story has also been featured by numerous media outlets, after gaining attention from a profile by Jill Rappaport on “NBC Nightly News” and on Today.com.
ASPCA Cat of the Year
Oregon City, Oregon
Koshka the cat’s story begins across the world at the front lines of war. Koshka was a stray when she struck up a friendship with Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott at a base in southern Afghanistan. To Knott, she was a pleasant reminder of life at home in far away Oregon. When a suicide bomber attacked a nearby military convoy, killing two of his close friends, Koshka stayed by Knott’s side, helping him through one of his darkest moments.
After his duty in Afghanistan ended, Knott worked hard to transport his beloved cat to the United States. Koshka was not allowed to travel on a military convoy, so Knott’s friends arranged her transport to Kabul through a compassionate and courageous interpreter who risked his life to help the American. Knott’s parents then paid nearly $3,000 for the airplane ticket that would eventually bring Koshka to her new home in Oregon, where she now peacefully resides.
ASPCA Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year
Presented in memoriam to Catherine V. Hubbard
Six-year-old Catherine Hubbard had a natural ability to connect and care for animals. She loved being in their presence, and was often heard whispering to animals and insects, “Tell your friends I am kind,” so they would come back to her again. She even designed her own business cards and appointed herself head of “Catherine’s Animal Shelter” with the title “Care Taker.” On December 14, 2012, Catherine was among 20 children killed during a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Catherine’s parents, Jenny and Matthew Hubbard, chose to honor Catherine’s compassion for animals throughout her whole life, by asking that donations be made to The Animal Center in Newtown. With these funds, The Animal Center is hoping to build, in her honor, the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, “a place where all creatures, great and small, are rescued, respected and loved.”
This award is dedicated to Tommy P. Monahan, a nine-year-old Staten Island boy who perished in a 2007 house fire trying to save his pet.
To learn more about Catherine’s Animal Shelter, click here.
ASPCA Presidential Service Award for Media Excellence
New York, New York
Dan Harris is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has co-anchored ABC News’ weekend edition of “Good Morning America” since October 2010. He is also a correspondent for ABC News broadcasts and platforms including “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Nightline,” ABC News Digital and ABC News Radio. For four years, he anchored “ABC World News Sunday.” In his distinguished career, Harris has made it a priority to report on the world’s most vulnerable populations, including endangered animals from such diverse locations as Namibia, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Nepal. Harris has also worked tirelessly to raise awareness of animal welfare issues in America, including coverage of Hurricane Sandy, online pet scams and travel safety.
In June 2012 in honor of Adopt a Shelter Cat month, Harris worked with the ASPCA to produce a comic viral video called “Hovercat.” The video, which encourages pet adoptions, has received over 1.1 million views since its launch and garnered national media attention.
Harris’s many awards and accolades include both an Edward R. Murrow Award and an Emmy Award. A graduate of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, he also holds honorary doctorate degrees from Colby and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He currently lives in New York City with his wife, Bianca, and three adopted cats from the ASPCA’s Adoption Center.
ASPCA Henry Bergh Award
Theresa Strader, Founder and Executive Director of National Mill Dog Rescue
Black Forest, CO
Before founding National Mill Dog Rescue, Theresa Strader spent 26 years as a pediatric nurse, all the while rescuing dogs and volunteering in animal shelters across the country. Early in 2007, responding to an email plea for “50 Italian greyhounds in need”, Strader attended a large-scale dog auction in the Midwest — the heart of puppy mill country. Within moments of witnessing first-hand the miserable, hopeless life of puppy mill dogs, Strader knew that she would dedicate the rest of her life to the dogs held captive by this shameful industry. She credits Lily, an Italian Greyhound “puppy mill mom” she rescued that day, for giving her the inspiration and tenacity to make that dream come true.
In February of that year, Strader founded the nonprofit National Mill Dog Rescue, which has since rescued and placed over 8,000 puppy mill survivors and has garnered national attention for itstireless and challenging work. Run almost solely by volunteers, the organization’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home discarded breeding dogs, and to educate the public about the cruel realities of the commercial dog breeding industry.
On June 11, 2013, during the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, Strader lost her home, the original site of National Mill Dog Rescue. Despite this devastating personal loss, Theresa remained focused on her mission and was on the road within weeks, rescuing more dogs from puppy mills.
To read more about Theresa, click here.
ASPCA Public Service Award
Master Patrolman Dion R. Dundovich, FBI TFO
Sergeant Bruce W. Houston, MSHP
Special Agent Karen J. Smilgis, FBI
The three recipients of the ASPCA 2013 Public Service Award played pivotal roles in investigating and raiding a large dog fighting operation in Missouri, Kansas and Texas in March 2013. The operation resulted in the recovery of 100 pit Bull Terriers that were being bred, sold, and trained to fight, as well as the arrests of Pete Davis Jr. and Melvin Robinson, who were each charged with one count of buying, selling, delivering or transporting animals for participation in an animal fighting venture. The dogs were rescued by the ASPCA at the request of the FBI, Missouri State Highway Patrol and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In October 2013, both men were found guilty and sentenced to time in prison. Each was also banned from owning dogs for three years once released from prison.
- Master Patrolman and FBI Task Force Officer Dion R. Dundovich, has been with the Kansas City, Kansas (KCK) Police Department since 1999. Prior to joining the FBI’s Safe Street Task Force in 2008, Officer Dundovich was a member of the KCK Police Department Special Enforcement Unit, serving as a tactical team member focused on the criminal activities of violent gangs and major drug trafficking organizations. Officer Dundovich served as co-case agent for this investigation, dedicating numerous hours culminating in the execution of a search, multiple arrests and the rescue of multiple animals in the state of Texas.
- Sergeant Bruce W. Houston is a 26-year veteran of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Following a tip from the Harrison County (Mo.) Sherriff’s Office, Houston led efforts to conduct surveillance and gather information about dog fights in the area. He soon learned that a simultaneous drug investigation was open with the FBI on the same subjects in Kansas and Missouri. Sergeant Houston worked with Master Patrolman Dion Dundovich and Special Agent Karen Smilgis to apprehend the subjects before the next scheduled dog fight could take place in Texas.
- Special Agent Karen J. Smilgis joined the FBI in October 2007 where she was assigned to the Kansas City division to investigate matters on the Joint Terrorism Task Force/International Terrorism Squad, Gangs and Criminal Enterprises Squad, and the Public Corruption Squad. Special Agent Smilgis served as the FBI’s primary investigator and case agent for this multi-state, multi-agency investigation.