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Five Canine Heroes Honored With AKC® Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE)

(Monday, September 12, 2011)

-- Recipients Include a Dog that Beat Death to Become a Local Hero and a Pomeranian Raising Awareness for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention --

The AKC® Humane Fund announced the winners of the 12th annual AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE), which commemorates five loyal, hard-working dogs that have made significant contributions to their communities in each of the following five categories: Exemplary Companion Dog, Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Service and Therapy.

"The AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence celebrate what dogs contribute to our lives and these five exceptional recipients exemplify the selfless service canines perform for us everyday," said AKC Spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "The dogs we’re honoring with the ACE award show the impact a single dog can make in a community."

All the ACE recipients will receive $1,000 and an engraved Sterling silver medallion presented at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Florida on December 17, 2011. Viewers can watch the ceremonies during the national broadcast on ABC Television on Feb. 4th (check your local listings). In addition, each winner will be honored at local events. The New York and New Jersey ACE winners will have their local ceremony and be available for a public meet and greet during AKC Meet the Breeds® on November 19-20, 2011 at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.

This year’s ACE winners include:

Exemplary Companion Dog: "Tugg," a Bull Terrier owned by Blake & Kim Ovard of Cleburne, TX

When he was four months of age, "Tugg" was found staked down beside a road, wrapped in a blanket, barely alive and suffering from numerous infections. His adoptive owners, both animal control officers, started a Facebook page to report on Tugg’s progress. Today, the Bull Terrier has more than 9,300 fans around the world. Tugg’s fame has helped him raise money for an array of charitable causes, including animal rescue and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. As a certified Therapy Dog, Tugg makes school visits where he helps raise children’s self-esteem with his "You are great just the way you are" program.

Law Enforcement Dog: "Blue," a German Shepherd Dog owned by Suffolk County Police Department and handled by John Mallia of Yaphank, NY

On December 11, 2010, John and Blue were requested to search for a missing woman in the Gilgo Beach area of Long Island, NY. They ended up locating a different woman’s remains in an area covered with dense brush and later unexpectedly found three additional sets of human remains, all of which were believed to be victims of the same serial killer. Just one week later, the team recovered the remains of a person in an unrelated case, helping to bring closure to a victim’s family.

Search and Rescue Dog: "Hunter" owned by Fire Captain Billy Monahan of Tehachapi, CA

Hunter and Captain Monahan were deployed to Haiti after the country’s January 2010 earthquake. During his time there, Hunter detected and alerted to live human scent while searching the debris of a four-story collapsed building. As a result of his efforts, rescuers were able to pull three girls, still alive, from the rubble. Hunter was also called on after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 and worked through aftershocks, tsunami warnings, freezing temperatures and snow. In 2010, Hunter was awarded the Firefighter of the Year award by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, becoming the first ever non-human recipient.

Service Dog: "Bingo," a Labrador Retriever owned by Konrad Feldmann of Liberty Township, OH

"Bingo" acts as a service dog for Konrad, who has cerebral palsy. Since being paired with Bingo, Konrad has experienced a far more inclusive and welcoming attitude in his school and community. Whether it’s a walk in the neighborhood or attendance at a high school football game, the team elicits a multitude of greetings from the many new friends Konrad has met through his canine partner. The team has also facilitated a presentation in a special needs classroom and taken part in a ribbon cutting ceremony for an accessible playground. Konrad loves to share his Service dog with others.

Therapy Dog: "Miki," a Pomeranian owned by Tricia Baker of Plainsboro, NJ

In 2009, Tricia Baker’s son Kenny took his own life after years of struggling with depression and anxiety disorder. Therapy Dog Miki has been instrumental in the Baker family’s recovery. After Kenny’s death, Tricia and her family created the organization A.I.R. (Attitudes in Reverse), whose theme is "Mental illness is like air. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It is all around us." Tricia makes presentations about mental health and suicide prevention where people pet and hug Miki as they open up about their personal journeys with similar issues. Miki also helps raise awareness by walking for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

To view photos and stories about the 2011 AKC Humane Fund ACE recipients and honorable mentions visit: http://www.akc.org/news/ace/2011/honorees.cfm

MEDIA NOTE: ACE Winners are available for interviews. Please contact Stephanie Smith at 212-696-8228 or communications@akc.org to schedule an interview or request photos.

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