PR Newswire

Courageous Canine Who Survived Terrible Ordeal And Now Spends Life Helping Others Wins Top Title Of "American Hero Dog" At The 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®

Sunday, Sep 11, 2016

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following nearly a million votes by the American public and the opinions of an expert panel of celebrity animal lovers and dog experts, Hooch, a three-year-old French Mastiff from Tehachapi, California, has been named this year's most courageous canine, beating 173 other heroic hounds and capturing the top title of "American Hero Dog" at the 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®. The sixth annual Hero Dogs Awards is presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc. and will be broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel October 28 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central Time.

"Hooch," who overcame terrible ordeals and works to help abused, autistic and special-needs kids, was named the top 2016 American Hero Dog at the American Humane Hero Dog Awards.

Hooch is a dog with badly cropped ears, a broken tail, and a bright spirit.  Zach Skow, of Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue, learned about him from a shelter in Bakersfield, which told him Hooch would not eat or drink, instead thrashing his food and water bowls around "like a maniac." He was 35 pounds underweight, starving and dehydrated, and they thought that a broken or dislocated jaw was causing his behavior. But when he was taken to the vet and sedated for x-raying, a gruesome discovery was made: Hooch's tongue had been savagely removed at its base, likely in an attempt to prime him for the role of a bait dog. Hooch kept removing his feeding tube, but fortunately took well to being hand-fed, tilting his head back while food was placed in the back of his throat, and letting gravity do the work. Despite the terrible injuries inflicted on him by people, Hooch is a heroic example of bravery, overcoming, and forgiveness. He now works with Marley's Mutts' Miracle Mutts division serving as a therapy dog for abused, autistic, and special needs children, helping them with great gentleness, patience and kindness.

For his extraordinary bravery and good works, Hooch won the American Humane Hero Dog Awards' "Emerging Hero Dog" category for ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things. This year, the Emerging Hero Dog category is sponsored by Merial, maker of NexGard® (afoxolaner) Chewables. Thank you to them for helping draw attention to Hooch's story and spotlighting the remarkable ways dogs can and do help us even when they themselves were in need of help and healing.

The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America's most courageous canines were hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last night by television and film star James Denton and model and animal advocate Beth Stern, accompanied by a galaxy of celebrity stars and presenters including Pauley Perrette, Alison Sweeney, Barbara Niven, Mark Steines, Bailee Madison, Marilu Henner, Victoria Stilwell, Debbie Matenopoulous, Greg Louganis, Adam Rodriguez, Alex Meneses, Brandon McMillan, Robert Herjavec, Kym Johnson, Jack Wagner, Dave Foley, and Dr. Marty Becker.  "Big Bang Theory" star Kaley Cuoco, Mary Matalin and James Carville, and Hero Dog Awards spokes-dog Happy the Dog provided delightful pre-taped video skits.

Katharine McPhee provided the lead musical performances, including a tribute to previous American Humane Hero Dogs who have crossed the rainbow bridge with a rendition of "Over the Rainbow" that brought the audience to tears. A special memorial was also held in honor of last year's winner, Harley, a tiny, one-eyed Chihuahua who fought to bring attention to the issue of puppy mills. Before the show, the audience was treated to the artistry of The Alex Donner Band. American Idol star and recording artist Stefano Langone sang the national anthem.

The Hero Dog Awards were created to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people and recognize extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs. The event will be broadcast nationwide by Hallmark Channel on October 28 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central. The program will air as part of Hallmark Channel's Pet Project, the network's cross-platform advocacy campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives.

"The American Humane Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our best friends," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, the country's first national humane organization. "These courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it, and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. All eight category winners tonight exemplify what it means to be a hero, and we hope that their stories – and Hooch's – will inspire people to value our animal friends and to recognize and honor how much they do for us every day."

The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Victoria Stilwell, Jennifer Arnold, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Joanne Horowitz, Blake Koch, Bailee Madison, Adrienne Maloof, Agent Jerry Means, Laura Nativo, Shara Strand, Lisa Vanderpump, and Lou Wegner.

All Finalists Are Winners

Hooch was the one chosen as 2016 American Hero Dog, but all eight finalists were winners in their categories, and we salute them for their courage, service and compassion:

Arson Dogs category (sponsored by State Farm®)

Judge (Allentown, PA) – Allentown Fire Department Arson K9 Judge is a seven-year old yellow Labrador retriever who has been in service since early 2011. His handler says Judge is a more vocal than the other arson dogs, but he attributes it to Judge's outgoing personality and drive to work. Judge is a well-rounded K-9 who thrives in three major areas: investigation, deterrence, and education. As an investigator, Judge has worked more than 275 fire scenes and during that time, evidence he has found has led to multiple criminal arrests and civil penalties for insurance fraud cases. As a deterrent, the numbers speak for themselves – the number of arson fires has dropped 52.7 percent since Judge has been in service with the City of Allentown. As an educator, Judge has been in more than 500 fire safety programs and demonstrations for crime watch groups, specialty dog shows, elementary and high school programs, and everything in between. He is now part of a pilot program with autistic children to provide them with lifesaving information. He has been instrumental in making the entire Lehigh Valley and neighboring communities more aware of fire and life safety.

Guide/Hearing Dogs category (sponsored by Clover Stornetta Farms, the official "Mootastic" sponsor of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards)

Hook (Sacramento, CA) – Hook is a 12-pound, 10-year-old hearing dog and goes almost everywhere with his handler. Three years ago the pair was in downtown Sacramento crossing a street. A train was coming that she could not hear because of her impairment. As she was approaching and crossing the track Hook started jumping on her and she did not know why; she could not figure out what he wanted. Then, she stopped and saw people on the street motioning to her. Hook saw the danger ahead that she was not aware of and pulled her from the track. She turned around not knowing why Hook reacted that way, but then saw the train. It had missed her by a foot. Another time a prowler broke into her office when she was in the back room. Scared and sensing a presence in her waiting room, she suddenly saw Hook bolting down the hallway, growling and chasing away the intruder. Hook's handler is a family therapist and Hook sits beside her chair while she listens to and helps patients. She says that "the amazing thing about Hook is he is not only sensitive to my needs but to the needs of others. When he sees a patient in distress or crying he will leave our chair, go sit in the patient's lap and lick their tears. He has brought smiles to many children, teens, and adults in our practice. Hook is everyone's hero not just mine."

Law Enforcement Dogs category (sponsored by the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program™ from Zoetis)

K-9 Edo (Los Angeles, CA) – On 1/1/16 LAPD units went into pursuit of two suspects wanted for robbery and murder. Suspect-2 exited, carjacked and shot two occupants of another vehicle. Suspect-2 crashed and ran into a house occupied by a father and three sons. Suspect-2 stabbed the father in his face but he was able to escape. Gunshots rang inside. It was believed Suspect-2 shot the children. An immediate entry/rescue team was established. K9 units arrived on scene. A plan was formulated to rescue the children. K-9 Officer Huynh and K-9 Edo were deployed to make entry into the house and possibly engage Suspect-2. As the team approached they were shot at through the door and they began to take more gunfire. The door was breached as Huynh targeted K9-Edo who entered the house. Another gunshot was heard and K-9 personnel entered. Both boys were shot inside. Edo saw the two young victims but turned to engage Suspect-2 instead. Suspect-2 then shot himself in the head. Edo pulled Suspect-2 away from the gun. It was discovered that Suspect-2 began shooting the children when his pistol jammed. When he cleared his malfunction, the officers arrived at the door and Suspect-2 started shooting at the K9 Officers instead. Undoubtedly, K9-Edo's actions saved the entire K-9 team. Both boys survived. Suspect-2 died.

Military Dogs category (sponsored by the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program™ from Zoetis)

Layka (Galena, KS) – In May 2012 Layka's team was assaulting an enemy compound in an Afghan village, receiving direct rifle fire from the compound.  Apache helicopters and Hellfires were brought in to help. Layka was sent into search for injured or live combatants and explosives. Once inside, she engaged an enemy combatant while taking four rounds from an AK-47 to the right shoulder area. Her handler removed her from the building and headed to a predetermined point for extraction where the medics started working on her. She was flown to a base where her right leg was removed and she was prepped for transport to Germany. Once in Germany she underwent more surgery to remove and repair her shoulder and triceps. She was moved to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to fully recover and was medically retired in August of 2012.

Search and Rescue Dogs category (sponsored by American Airlines, the Official Airline Sponsor of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards)

Kobuk (York, ME) – Kobuk is a certified search and rescue dog and a member of the volunteer, non-profit Maine Search & Rescue Dogs team. One of his most successful finds was locating a 77-year-old diabetic with dementia, who had been missing for two nights in the Maine woods without food, water, or her medications. Kobuk's mission was incredibly time-sensitive. After hours of searching, on the third morning Kobuk's nose went up into the air, and he took off running two-tenths of a mile to locate her. Kobuk sprinted back to his handler, gave a loud bark (the signal that he had found her), then turned back around and bolted back to the elderly woman with his handler in pursuit. Thankfully, she was found in time to save her life. Kobuk searches with enthusiasm, never quits while someone is still lost in the woods, and he loves to give kids his signature "Kobuk-kisses"

Service Dogs category (sponsored by Modern Dog)

Gander (Great Lakes, IL) – Gander was saved from a Colorado shelter, and was rescued by a women's prison program in Denver, Colorado for obedience training. He was then trained by Freedom Service Dogs in Englewood, Colorado. It was there in September 2012 that his handler and Gander became a team. They have not spent one day apart since then and he credits Gander with literally saving his life. In 2014, Gander was the first mixed breed dog to win the American Kennel Club "Award for Canine Excellence." Gander is on a mission. He travels the United States – 36 states so far – to encourage education and awareness for PTS, veteran suicide, service dogs, and persons with visible and invisible disabilities. While traveling, the team performs Planned Acts of Community Kindness (PACKS), and fundraising. They have been instrumental in helping to raise a million dollars for numerous veterans' groups, veterans, service dog charities, and individuals in need. They sponsored the country's first service dog education conference, and have given hundreds of presentations to schools and community organizations. The team created a collection of inspirational dog stories entitled, "In Dogs We Trust." They love to visit hospitals, USOs and community events as service dog ambassadors.

Therapy Dogs category (sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food, the Official Pet Food of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards)

Mango (Las Cruces, NM) – Mango is a four-year-old paralyzed rescue who was homeless, hit by a car, and scheduled for euthanasia. Emma's Cleft Palate Chihuahua Rescue pulled Mango from a shelter, nursed her back to health and placed her in a program called Emma's Rescue Reserve. This program was created to place paralyzed dogs with owners so they could work with disabled veterans who suffer from physical disabilities and show them that if a small dog in a wheelchair can overcome her handicap, then so can they. The comfort Mango brings them teaches that "disabled" is only a word and words should never stop our ability to overcome a life-altering, physical change no matter what the handicap may be.  Mango also helps other disabled pets through "Mango's Freedom Wheels," which purchases wheelchairs for them. Thanks to generous donations, the group has purchased more than 150 custom-built wheelchairs to help other animals regain their ability to be mobile again. She has put cats, dogs, and even a mini-horse and pig into wheelchairs so they can experience the freedom of standing and running once more.

Each of the eight finalists received $2,500 to be donated to one of American Humane's charity partners. Hooch won an additional $5,000 for his charity, Pets for Patriots. In this way, more heroes may be nurtured. 

Special Video and Announcement Recognizing Military Hero Dogs

Other heroes were recognized, as well. A special video documenting the inauguration of the American Humane Lois Pope LIFE K-9 Medal of Courage, honoring the nation's most courageous military dogs, was premiered at the Hero Dog Awards gala and will be broadcast coast to coast during the national Hallmark Channel television special on October 28.  Philanthropist and longtime veterans' advocate Lois Pope then took the stage to invite design submissions for a new American Military Hero Dog Monument (ideas may be sent in to These two efforts will bring welcome recognition to some of our county's most valiant defenders.   

"These four-legged heroes have saved countless thousands of lives, provide our troops with companionship and a sense of normalcy under unimaginable conditions, and continue to save lives after they return home, helping veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress," said Lois Pope.  "It is because these military dogs have done so much for our men and women in uniform that I wanted to honor their extraordinary feats and acts of devotion."   

"Lois Pope has been America's leading voice for warriors on both ends of the leash," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane's president and CEO. "Her advocacy for our servicemen, women, and military animals through these projects and our Lois Pope LIFE Center for Military Affairs will help ensure that those who fight for our freedom receive the recognition and support they deserve. On their behalf, we salute you, Lois!"

Heroes Who Save and Keep Our Hero Pets Healthy Also Honored

Behind every hero pet is a hero vet or vet tech.  Each year at the Hero Dog Awards, American Humane also announced the winners of its Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards™, sponsored by the leading animal health company Zoetis. After a nationwide search and tens of thousands of public votes, Dr. Natalie Isaza, from Gainesville, Florida, who founded the Veterinary Community Outreach Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, was named 2016's American Hero Veterinarian, and Kim Knap from Urbana, Illinois, a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, was declared 2016's American Hero Veterinary Technician.

"To us, all vets and vet techs are heroes and this is why we want to honor the best of the best in their fields," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO. "Indeed, Dr. Isaza and Ms. Knap are tremendous animal welfare advocates and we are so proud to learn of their laudable accomplishments aiding the animals in need in their communities and beyond. And our thanks go out to our friends at Zoetis for sponsoring this special national campaign because we know how committed they are to recognizing the achievements of the veterinary community."

"Compassionate dedication to the health and welfare of animals is a hallmark of both Dr. Isaza and Ms. Knap," said J. Michael McFarland, DVM, DABVP, group director, Companion Animal Marketing at Zoetis. "We are proud to join in honoring these exceptional individuals who are making a difference in animals' lives through delivery of outstanding veterinary care." 

Honoring Our Heroes' Supporters

American Humane honored the many generous sponsors who support the Hero Dog Awards and made them possible. "We thank the animals, their dedicated owners and handlers, and the generous sponsors who have helped bring about that recognition," said Dr. Ganzert. "Thank you to Lois Pope and the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation; Hallmark Channel; Zoetis, sponsor of the Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards; Military Dog and Law Enforcement sponsor RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program™ from Zoetis; Arson Dog sponsor State Farm®; Emerging Hero Dog sponsor Merial, maker of NexGard® (afoxolaner) Chewables; Service Dog sponsor Modern Dog Magazine; Therapy Dog sponsor Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food; Guide/Hearing Dog sponsor Clover Stornetta; Search and Rescue sponsor American Airlines; and the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Dogs may be our best friends, but these caring organizations are theirs."

Friends of Animals Honored

Finally, American Humane bestowed special honors on several friends whose abiding passion for and support of animals deserve special recognition. The organization awarded its coveted National Humanitarian Medal to animal welfare expert Dr. J. Michael McFarland, Group Director of Companion Animal Veterinary Operations at Zoetis, who has been involved in major animal relief efforts in crisis such as Hurricane Katrina, and to philanthropist, businesswoman and star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Adrienne Maloof for her tireless advocacy on behalf of animals.  American Humane honored John B. Payne, its chairman, past president of Banfield Pet Hospitals, and president and CEO of Compassion-First Pet Hospitals with its prestigious Legacy Award for the scope and enduring impact of his work in the animal health arena. And the organization gave philanthropists Lois Pope, Bjaye Pilotte, Robert Bailey, and sculptor Austin Weishel its coveted "Humane Hero" award for their outstanding work to advance the welfare of animals and the human-animal bond.

"These remarkable people are true friends of animals," said Dr. Robin Ganzert. "Few have the ability to make the impact they have, personally and professionally, on so many lives. For the millions they have helped and continue to help, we thank you for your passion and devotion to improving life for the animals of the world."

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

About Lois Pope, The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., and LIFE (Leaders in Furthering Education)

As one of America's leading philanthropists, Lois Pope has positively impacted the lives of individuals at the local, national and international levels.  She has established three separate organizations dedicated to helping those in need.  These organizations are the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., Leaders In Furthering Education (LIFE), and the Disabled Veterans' Life Memorial Foundation.  For more than 20 years she has been the driving force behind the Lois Pope LIFE Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, and a groundbreaking new program with American Humane in Palm Beach County. Lois Pope has recently donated two Lois Pope Red Star Rescue Vehicles. Each rescue vehicle is a 50-foot long response unit, complete with a Ford F-350 truck and trailer, which is specifically designed and outfitted to provide an array of animal emergency services and cruelty responses within the region. 

Mrs. Pope recently saw the completion of a decade's long dream – the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated by President Obama in Washington, DC on Sunday, October 5, 2014. The Memorial will forever stand as a reminder to the public and legislators of the courage and sacrifices of the four million living disabled veterans and all those who died before them for the need to be vigilant in assuring their support, as well as being aware of the human cost of war.

A mother and a grandmother, Lois has trained for and completed five New York City Marathons.

About Hallmark Channel

Hallmark Channel is Crown Media Family Networks' flagship 24-hour cable television network, distributed nationwide in high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) to 90 million homes.  As the country's leading destination for quality family entertainment, Hallmark Channel delivers on the 100-year legacy of the Hallmark brand.  In addition to its signature new, original movies, the network features an ambitious lineup of other new, original content, including scripted primetime series, such as "Good Witch," "When Calls the Heart" and "Chesapeake Shores"; annual specials including "Kitten Bowl" and "Hero Dog Awards"; and a daily, two-hour lifestyle show, "Home & Family."  Additionally, Hallmark Channel is the exclusive home to world premiere presentations of the acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame franchise.  Dedicated to helping viewers celebrate life's special moments, Hallmark Channel also offers annual holiday programming franchises, including "Countdown to Christmas," "Countdown to Valentine's Day," "Summer Nights," "Fall Harvest" and "Winterfest."  Rounding out the network's diverse slate are some of television's most beloved comedies and series, including "The Golden Girls," "The Middle," "Last Man Standing," and "Frasier."

Hallmark Cards, Inc. owns and operates Crown Media Family Networks.

For more information, please visit

Hallmark Channel on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

About Zoetis

Zoetis (zô-EH-tis) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products and genetic tests and supported by a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2015, the company generated annual revenue of $4.8 billion with approximately 9,000 employees. For more information, visit

About State Farm®

The mission of State Farm is to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto, home and individual life insurance in the United States. Its 18,000 agents and more than 65,000 employees serve more than 83 million policies and accounts – nearly 81 million auto, home, life, health and commercial policies, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 35 on the 2016 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit

About Merial, maker of NexGard® (afoxolaner) Chewables

Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health and well-being of a wide range of animals. Merial employs 6,600 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide with over €2 billion of sales in 2014. Merial has three main business areas: pets, farm animals, and veterinary public health. Our pharmaceuticals and vaccines focus on disease prevention and overall health and wellness in animals, and target more than 200 diseases and conditions across a variety of species.

Merial is a Sanofi company. For more information, please see

About Modern Dog magazine

Modern Dog magazine is a must-read for dog lovers! Get inspired with the best ideas and solutions for life with dogs. Each issue features cool finds, design, insight into your dog's behaviour, best buys, wellness, rescue, training, fun DIY how-tos, contests and more! Modern Dog is your guide to a better bond with your dog. A large part of Modern Dog's mission is to support rescue and the organizations that work tirelessly to help to dogs in need.

About Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food

Chicken Soup for the Soul understands the unique relationship between people and pets. Health conscious consumers have been feeding their cats and dogs Chicken Soup for the Soul wholesome and balanced, super premium pet food for over a decade. Holistic in nature, the entire line of products is made from only the finest ingredients: real meats (chicken, turkey, duck and salmon), fruits, vegetables and herbs. With no added corn, wheat, soy, artificial coloring, flavoring or preservatives, Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food is inspired by your love for pets, and promotes overall health and well-being for dogs and cats.  The products are proudly made in the USA, and feature rescued shelter pets on every bag. Core and grain-free formulas are available in independent pet specialty stores nationwide and online, with a new line of treats launching in August 2016.

A portion of all proceeds from the sale of Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food goes to help shelters and pets in need through Chicken Soup for the Soul's Fill a Bowl … Feed a Soul program. The program which was launched in association with the American Humane aims to provide a million meals to shelter pets in 2016.

About Clover Stornetta Farms

Celebrating its centennial anniversary, third-generation family owned and operated Clover Stornetta Farms is recognized as a leader at the forefront of the dairy industry. The Petaluma-based company in California's beautiful Sonoma County was the first dairy in the United States to become American Humane Certified and hold its partnership of family-owned dairy farms to a higher standard by developing its own unique North Coast Excellence Certified program. Clover is proud to bring clean, rBST-free and delicious dairy products direct from our farms to health conscious consumers. The company's passionate support of animal welfare, sustainable business practice, and local community are hallmarks of the business. For more information, please visit and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.  

About American Airlines Group

American Airlines and American Eagle offer an average of nearly 6,700 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in more than 50 countries. American has hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. American is a founding member of the oneworld alliance, whose members and members-elect serve nearly 1,000 destinations with 14,250 daily flights to 150 countries. Shares of American Airlines Group Inc. trade on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol AAL. In 2015, its stock joined the S&P 500 index. Connect with American on Twitter @AmericanAir and at

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