A Chihuahua from Berthoud, Colorado won the coveted title of “American Hero Dog” in a competition held by the American Humane Association (AHA) on September 19.
More than 170 canine pets participated in the 5th edition of the Hero Dog Awards, which took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. However, the victor was Harley the Chihuahua, who claimed the top prize and received a standing ovation from the public.
He was rewarded for becoming the key figure of the “Harley to Rescue Campaign”, after being rescued at the age of 10 from a puppy mill. The dog had been living in inhumane conditions, and had suffered constant abuse and neglect, which left him crippled and one-eyed.
Following his ordeal, he was left with rotting teeth, which had to be removed, and now his tongue always sticks out. He also has deformed legs, a broken tail, a fused spine, gnarled toes, and heart disease.
Inspired by this heartbreaking story, National Mill Dog Rescue volunteers, who had saved the small dog, started a canine care crusade in his honor. Their mission was to collect funds and raise awareness of the torture and inhumane treatment that animals are subjected to in puppy mills.
There are around 4,000 dog breeding facilities of this kind in the United States, which produce more than half a million puppies on a yearly basis. The commercial kennels put profit-making above the dogs’ welfare, and they’re usually unsanitary and overcrowded.
Usually, puppies that are kept there don’t receive basic veterinary care, food, water, grooming or exercise. As a result, they are frequently sick or malnourished, and around half of them die before reaching pet shops.
According to Rudi Taylor, the Chihuahua’s current owner, Harley travels all over the country and makes appearances at public events, where people are informed about this profitable, but brutal business. In the last couple of years, more than 500 dogs were saved from commercial kennels thanks to this campaign.
“We hope that Harley’s story will inspire people to shut down puppy mills once and for all”, declared Dr. Robin Ganzert, AHA president and CEO.
The small rescued pet was awarded the “American Hero Dog” title, after getting more than 1 million public votes, as well as the support of the judges panel, which included celebrities and animal advocates.
Overall, there were 24 semifinalists, and 8 finalists, which received $2500 prizes in the following categories: Therapy Dog, Service Dog, Emerging Hero Dog, Law Enforcement Dog, Search & Rescue Dog, Military Dog, Guide/Hearing Dog and Arson Dog.
Aside from winning the top title and a $5000 reward, the Chihuahua was also declared Emerging Hero Dog at the awards ceremony, a prize which honors ordinary dogs that achieve extraordinary things.
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