The Grosvenor Hotel in Park Lane last night saw the fourth annual Animal Hero Awards held by the RSPCA and the Mirror and hosted by Amanda Holden. It was a night to celebrate the bond between humans and animals, highlighted by the Special Recognition Award winners Sue Dicks and PC Lee Webb.
Sue Dicks, a supervisor at RSPCA West Hatch Animal Centre in Taunton and PC Lee Webb from Avon and Somerset Police work together to recognise those dogs with the potential to make it as police dogs.
Their first staffie success story was Kos who was rehomed to Lee at Avon and Somerset Police in 2012.
Most recently in June this year Boris the staffie became the 12th police dog to be rehomed to the force.
One of the dogs – a spaniel cross called Sid – went on to be trained as a sniffer dog specialising in explosives. He worked at the London 2012 Olympics and even became part of the team protecting President Barack Obama during his visit to Ireland in 2011.
PC Lee Webb said: “I am honoured and very surprised to have won this award – the other nominees did such a great job. It is nice to see Staffies given the recognition they deserve. Maybe other forces will consider using them now and we can change the lives of more dogs.”
He said, “I am an avid supporter of using rescue dogs wherever possible, choosing dogs based on ability not looks. I continue to be impressed with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and their crosses.
“The level of failure is low, because we look for very specific traits, and both Sue and I have a gut feeling when something good comes along.
“The work these dogs do is incredibly important particularly in the current climate where there are terror threats to the country involving firearms – these are the dogs working to sniff them out.”
Speaking of the success of the partnership PC Webb continued, “I am proud to have handled one of the Country’s first Staffy crosses, Kos, who was the first of his kind from West Hatch.
“The relationship I hold with West Hatch, is very dear to me. My relationship with Sue Dicks in particular is tremendously important to me.
“We both love dogs and trying to do the very best for them and our respective organisations. I feel honoured to have a trusting working relationship with such a prestigious centre, well known for its work with wildlife, and perhaps now for its work with dogs.”
PC Webb continued, “I hope that our special relationship will continue for the years ahead, and that we continue to provide dogs with a happy and fulfilled future.”
Sue Dicks, from the RSPCA, said: “I am very overwhelmed and didn’t expect this to happen – I am really shocked. I’m so proud of all the incredible dogs that have been rehomed from West Hatch. To know they are out there working for the public to make the world a safer place is a huge achievement.”
She continued, “These dogs were brought into us unwanted and victims of cruelty and neglect – but now they have become real life animal heroes.
“Dogs should never be judged on their appearance alone. I really hope the legacy of the work we carry out at West Hatch goes to show that all rescue dogs including staffies are incredibly loyal and hardworking dogs capable of great things.”
At last year’s Animal Hero Awards incredible rescue-turned-police dog Stella, pictured below, was awarded as Public Service Animal of the Year along with her handler PC Claire Todd. PC Todd this year was invited to sit on the judging panel of the Animal Hero Awards.
PC Todd, now takes Stella into schools to help promote her work, she said: “Working with Stella has completely changed my life. I have been blown away by her – even on her first day she sniffed out £200 cash. It’s easy to be sceptical as staffies aren’t typical police dog breeds but if you give them a chance the sky’s the limit.”
TV presenter Matt Johnson, who presented the award to Sue and Lee, said: “Staffies are such amazing dogs, they are friendly and loyal – the opposite to what people often think. I have heard so many fantastic stories here tonight, my Dad and my brother both work for the police so this one really hit home, dogs can fulfill so many purposes in people’s lives.