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The AKC Humane Fund Awards For Canine Excellence (ACE)

The AKC Humane Fund Awards For Canine Excellence (ACE)

Calling All Canine Heroes!

Nominations Are Now Open for the 2023 AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE)

To celebrate the dogs who do extraordinary things in the service of humankind, the AKC Humane FundSM is seeking YOUR nominations for its AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE). Nominations are open now through July 1st and winners will be announced in late 2023. Winners will be highlighted in a made-for-tv special created by AKC productions.


The AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence are proudly sponsored by YuMove

Nominate a Dog for a 2023 ACE Award

One award is given in each of the following five categories:

Uniformed Service K-9
Eligibility: Full-time working K-9s in the realms of city, county, state, or federal law enforcement; the military; firefighting; customs and border patrol; emergency services.

Exemplary Companion
Eligibility: Dogs without formal training or certification that have nonetheless distinguished themselves in some way and have made a meaningful contribution to their owners or communities.

Search and Rescue
Eligibility: Dogs certified to assist in wilderness and urban tracking, natural disasters, mass casualty events and locating missing people.

Eligibility: Certified therapy dogs working in hospitals, schools, disaster sites, war zones, and wherever else the affection of a good dog can provide comfort.

Eligibility: Service dogs who enrich the lives of physically or mentally disabled owners, including, but not limited to, guide dogs for the blind, seizure-alert dogs, hearing dogs, balance dogs.

**(Note: Nominees doing therapy work without certification are considered in the Exemplary Companion category.)

Winners of the 2022 ACE Awards:

  • Service Dog: “Lotus,” a German Shepherd Dog owned by Asia Duhamel of Fallbrook, CA +

    Lotus is an Assistance Dogs International-accredited psychiatric/mobility Service Dog for her owner, Asia Duhamel. Duhamel is a former active-duty Marine who was struggling with PTSD when she thought a service dog might help her get through daily life. Though retired from mobility except for retrievals, Lotus assists her owner in many ways, including disrupting repetitive and anxious behavior, responding to increased breathing, and crowd control. With Duhamel, that means putting her body on her lap, moving her hands out of the way, and licking her on her back until she recovers. Since receiving Lotus, Duhamel has started her training apprenticeship with Next Step Service Dogs after being ADI-accredited through the organization. She is now the lead trainer at a non-profit organization called Canine Support Teams training service dogs. Lotus also participates in a wide variety of AKC sports including Dock Diving, Barn Hunt, Hydro Dash, Canine Good Citizen, Trick Dog, Farm Dog, Scent Work, Rally, and more.

  • Search and Rescue Dog: “Lincoln,” a Flat-Coated Retriever owned by Jon Izant of Seattle, WA +

    Lincoln and his handler are part of King County Search Dogs in Washington State. He responds to over 40 search missions and trains hundreds of hours per year. As a Search & Rescue team, Lincoln and his handler must be on call 24/7 and while as volunteers they are not required to respond to every call, they respond to about 80% of them. He has earned certifications in wilderness, air scent, and human remains detection. Lincoln has been deployed on urban, water, forest and alpine searches from the shores of Puget Sound to the crest of the Cascade Mountains. He has even assisted on a few helicopter air lifts. He has found two missing at-risk persons, both in their late 80’s. One search was completed at 2:30am and he was able to locate the missing person in less than 15 minutes. The other had been missing overnight and despite the obstacles of a dense forest, was able to locate the person.

  • Therapy Dog: “Axel,” a Rottweiler owned by John Hunt of Blackwood, NJ +

    Axel is an extraordinary Crisis Response Certified Canine and has visited countless hospitals, schools, first responder and military organizations. In the past two years, they have volunteered over 2,500 hours and interacted with over 50,000 people. Axel was instrumental during the pandemic when he would sit with dying patients when their family members weren’t able to visit. Axel would console nurses and doctors who’ve witness countless COVID-19 deaths to help process grief. In addition, he accompanies his handler to conduct Critical Incident Stress Management sessions with Police, Fire and EMS, helping first responders process grief following a death, suicide, or traumatic event in the line of duty. Axel was also deployed to the scene of the Surfside condo collapse in Florida as well as the shootings in Virginia and Uvalde, TX.

  • Exemplary Companion Dog: “Scout,” a Boykin Spaniel owned by Judge Joseph Wyant of Newnan, GA +

    Scout has been serving on Coweta County Georgia’s Juvenile Court with Judge Joseph Wyant since 2013. She has supported hundreds of children, families and court staff, helping to alleviate the tremendous stress and often overwhelming emotions that children face when involved with court proceedings. Scout acts as a calming presence for children having to testify in court as well as help children caught in the frightening experience of being in custody of the Department of Child and Family Services.

  • Uniformed Service K-9: “Hummer,” a Belgian Malinois handled by William Sessa of Suwanee, GA +

    Hummer is a retired tracking and narcotics detection dog, along with his handler William Sessa through the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department and was certified by Custom Canine Unlimited and the National Narcotics Detection Dog Association during his time on the force. They worked together for seven years before retiring in 2021. Hummer’s tasks ranged from tracking lost individuals like elderly patients with Alzheimer’s and children and young adults with Autism to pursuing criminals. Hummer most notably sniffed out a 22-year-old murder suspect hiding in a dumpster after a long pursuit. They worked together to get massive amounts of illicit drugs off the street and protect the SWAT team.

Past Honorees

Meet all of the AKC Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) winners and watch their inspiring stories on’s special presentation, sponsored by Eukanuba.