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They always say never work with children or animals — but happily Amanda Holden is no stranger to both.
The host of the Daily Mirror’s Animal Hero Awards took in her stride the barks, yelps and “toilet breaks” on stage at London’s Grosvenor Hotel.
When Braveheart the dog – courageous by name and courageous by nature – sought to relieve herself in front of the audience, Amanda saved the pup’s blushes by joking: “Don’t worry, I’m bursting as well.”
This was an awards evening like no other. Some of the biggest names in showbiz and animal conservation were in the house — and many of them brought their pet as their “plus one”.
The event honours the achievements of the four-legged and furry as well as inspirational people who have gone above and beyond for animal welfare.
And once they began, there was not a dry eye in the house.
But of all the heartwarming stories, it was Braveheart and a heroic shire horse who stole the show.
The three-year-old dog has only two legs. Her front paws were hacked off by dog meat traders and she was tied to a pole for butchering in China.
But Braveheart’s incredible spirit prevailed, she was rescued and has now won the Inspirational Animal of the Year award.
After being saved, she was adopted by Amanda Leask and her family in Inverness.
Proud Amanda, who is campaigning against the barbaric dog meat trade, accepted the award from TOWIE’S Pete Wicks and TV presenter Pip Thomson.
“She is so feisty and has such a fire in her belly,” said owner Amanda.
“Most other dogs would have put their head down and probably given in but not Braveheart. And I won’t give up – even though it’s going to be a hard fight.”
Simon Cowell also recorded a special message for Braveheart, saying: “She is an inspiration. What is happening in the meat trade has to stop — and events like tonight’s I hope will make a difference.”
Because of his size, Beau the 12-year-old shire horse could not be there to accept his Hero Animal award. But there were gasps when his remarkable story was told. When his dying mate Beatrice, 17, was about to be put down due to equine colic, Beau’s owners Donald MacIntyre and Jane Lipington brought him in to say goodbye.
Beatrice was on the floor, unable to move despite efforts from vets who tried unsuccessfully to lift her with machinery.
But when Beau entered her stable he gripped Beatrice’s mane in his teeth and began to pull her up and soon managed to get her into a standing position.
Proud owner Jane, from Bath, said: “It is absolutely astonishing. We were prepared to lose her but Beau knew what to do. They have a close relationship.
“Beau achieved what six hours of human endeavour with straps and machinery had failed to.” Beatrice made a good recovery and the pair have since had a second foal together, Angus.
The Special Award went to the successful campaigners, including the Daily Mirror’s Andrew Penman, behind Lucy’s Law. This legislation led to the ban on the sale of puppies by pet shops, online dealers and other third party sellers in August.
Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was rescued from a Welsh puppy farm five years ago.
Her hips had fused together, she had a curved spine, bald patches and epilepsy after years of mistreatment. The story of how she was rescued by Lisa Garner prompted a campaign that helped to change the law.
Before handing vet Marc Abraham and Lisa the award, TV presenter Nicky Campbell said: “This has been one of the most remarkable campaigns in animal welfare history.
“A huge thanks also to the Daily Mirror and the RSPCA.”
Tearful TV vet Marc dedicated the Special Award to his late father. He added: “Thank you to everyone who has helped Lucy’s Law, especially to the Daily Mirror.
“If it were not for the Mirror, it would have been a lot harder to achieve this goal. Thank you Andrew Penman for believing in the campaign.”
The Mirror joined with pet food, treats and toys brand Webbox and the RSPCA to produce the ceremony.
Guests included John Cleese, actor Peter Egan, Bake Off’s Candice Brown and Winter Olympics golden girl Amy Williams.
TV presenter and campaigner Steve Backshall received the Outstanding Contribution award.
Dame Jane Goodal sent shivers down spines when she accepted the Lifetime Achievement award presented by Born Free’s Virginia McKenna.
The 84-year-old’s research into wild chimpanzees at Gombe, Western Tanzania, changed the way we think about animals forever.
Dr Goodall said: “I wanted to go to Africa. The Second World War was raging.
“People said I couldn’t do it, but my mother told me to take every opportunity I could get and to never give up on my dreams.”
- For more on the animal hero awards 2018 go to www.animalheroawards.co.uk.
The other winners
Young Animal Hero: Dara McAnulty
The 14-year-old from Co Fermanagh, who has autism, says nature “saved him” from a mental breakdown.
Dara does not go to the beach for a holiday — he takes bin-liners and does not leave until every piece of litter has been cleared away.
He joined Chris Packham on his UK Bioblitz tour this year.
Animal Rescue: King
King the lion cub was rescued from a Paris apartment where he was kept in squalid conditions as a pet. King had been kicked and beaten by his cruel owner.
He was rescued and taken 6,000 miles away to live his new life in South Africa at Born Free’s Jean Byrd Centre in Shamwari Game Reserve.
Special Recognition: Michelle Clark
Michelle dedicates her life to looking after dogs on the streets in London and their homeless owners who can’t bear to be parted from their pets.
Conservationist of the Year: Cristina Lapis
Cristina is the founder of the Liberty Bear sanctuary in Romania and has saved animals from captivity and from exploitation.
Inspirational Animal of the Year: Scarlett the beagle
Scarlett, left, has PTSD after suffering for two years in a US lab and being put through hell in the name of ‘research’. She was freed in 2016 by a charity who helped Janie and Phil Green, of Loughton, Essex, adopt her.
Special Recognition: Dr Abdul-Jalil Mohammadzai
The refugee vet works with rescued animals in the UK while still going the extra mile for animal welfare in his homeland of Afghanistan. He trained as a vet at Kabul University but fled to Britain in 1996 after the Taliban took over.
RSPCA Superstar: Phil Hamilton
The animal collection officer from Berkshire has a specialist knowledge of exotic animals and travels nationwide to assist with hair-raising rescues.
Services to Wildlife: Anne Brummer
Anne rescues and rehabilitates thousands of animals and birds at Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue in Surrey and founded the Save Me Trust with Dr Brian May.
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