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American Humane and Philanthropist Lois Pope Host Annual Hero Dog Awards Gala Luncheon

Star-studded luncheon featured America’s most heroic dogs, American Idol star Katharine McPhee, Beth Stern, Barbara Niven, and the Alex Donner Orchestra

Winning sculptor for new national military hero dog monument announced

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, March 14, 2017 — For seven years, American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, and Palm Beach philanthropist Lois Pope have honored America’s bravest heroes on both ends of the leash through the annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards®. Four of these heroic hounds and some of the entertainment world’s biggest names came to Palm Beach for the exclusive, annual, star-studded “Hero Dog Awards Gala Luncheon,” including the national awards’ host and passionate animal advocate Beth Stern, Hallmark Channel television star and American Humane National Ambassador Barbara Niven, star of American Idol and hit show “Scorpion” Katharine McPhee, who gave a beautifully stirring and powerful performance, and the renowned Alex Donner Orchestra. These celebrities and an illustrious gathering of more than 300 Palm Beach notables and animal lovers were all there for one reason: To honor our nation’s most courageous canines, including some of America’s brave Hero Dog Awards winners:

  • Hooch, who was terribly abused but whose spirit of forgiveness led him to serve as a therapy dog for abused, autistic, and special needs children, helping them with great gentleness, patience and kindness. For his heroism and good works, Hooch was named the American Hero Dog of 2016.
  • Mango, a paralyzed rescue who was homeless, hit by a car, and scheduled for euthanasia, and who now, with the help of a tiny wheelchair, helps inspire disabled veterans with physical disabilities. For her work and bravery, Mango was named the nation’s Therapy Dog of the Year.
  • Hook, the country’s Hearing Dog of the Year, is a tiny, 12-pound, 10-year-old dog who goes almost everywhere with his handler. Three years ago the pair was in downtown Sacramento crossing a street when a train came. Hook pulled her from the track and the train missed her by a foot. Another time a prowler broke into her office and Hook chased him away.
  • Gander was rescued from a Colorado shelter and trained as a service dog, going on to save the life of a veteran suffering from invisible but deadly wounds of war. He travels the United States to teach people about preventing veteran suicide and has raised a million dollars for veterans’ groups, veterans, service dog charities, and individuals in need. For his lifesaving work, Gander was named Service Dog of the Year.

Winning Sculptor for New National Monument Honoring Military Hero Dogs Announced

Some 2,500 dogs have played a vital part on the front lines of the war on terror, and about 700 are deployed overseas, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.  Like the many thousands who served in the military dating back to World War I, these courageous canines provide comfort and companionship to our troops, detect explosive devices, carry out life-saving tasks, search areas that cannot be accessed by soldiers themselves, do sentry and scout work, and even shield soldiers from flying bullets. It is widely estimated that each military dog saves the lives of up to 150-200 service men and women. But for the most part military dogs have not been given the credit due to them for their heroic acts on and off the battlefield. To give these heroes more of the recognition they deserve, philanthropist, animal lover, and veterans’ advocate Lois Pope and American Humane are working to create a new national monument to military dogs that will be the first of its kind to be placed in the nation’s capital. They launched a coast-to-coast design search, calling on professional and amateur artists, sculptors, designers, veterans, and ordinary people to conceive a permanent national tribute honoring all military dogs for their valor. The campaign prompted nearly 50 entries and after careful deliberation by a VIP panel including military leaders, and input from the American public, three finalists were selected. The winning sculptor, Austin Weishel of Loveland, Colorado, was announced at American Humane’s annual Hero Dog Gala Luncheon in Palm Beach, Florida. Weishel is a nationally renowned sculptor and firefighter. His sculptures honoring the military, first responders, and their canine partners are visited daily across the country. In 2014 his work, the National Fire Dog Monument in Washington D.C. was voted the city’s most popular national monument in the Washington Post.

“For thousands of years, mankind has had a special relationship with dogs, and the American Humane Hero Dog Awards are our way of honoring the best of our best friends,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “Lois Pope has been the Presenting Sponsor of the Hero Dog Awards for seven years, and our annual gala luncheon is an inspiring afternoon when we offer our thanks to so many of our greatest heroes – from service dogs who improve our lives to military hero dogs who fight alongside our troops and defend our freedom. We are grateful to all of them, to Lois Pope for her work in supporting these heroes, and all of our generous sponsors and National Ambassadors for helping us recognize their remarkable accomplishments.”

“It would be impossible to count all of the ways that dogs make our lives safer, happier, and healthier,” said philanthropist Lois Pope. “We should never forget that some of America’s bravest heroes come on four legs and we need to pay tribute to their remarkable work and achievements.”

For information about American Humane’s other animal-themed community events during the Palm Beach season, please contact Mari Harner at 561-537-5887 or [email protected].


About American Humane

American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit To inquire about Hero Dog Awards sponsorship opportunities, please email Mari Harner at [email protected].

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