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New York, NY — The American Kennel Club ( AKC ® ) announced today that Julie Slobodnjak of Virginia Beach , Virginia , has been named a recipient of the AKC Community Achievement Award for her therapy work, promoting responsible dog ownership and safety around dogs in her community. Slobodnjak was nominated by the Virginia Beach Kennel Club, a group in which she serves as a member, obedience chairperson, canine blood-bank coordinator and AKC Canine Ambassador. Slobodnjak was one of two honorees this quarter – Gail A. LaBerge of Buford , Georgia , also received recognition.

The AKC Community Achievement Awards support and recognize outstanding public education and legislation efforts of AKC -affiliated clubs, AKC -recognized federations and their members. The AKC selects award recipients who promote purebred dogs and responsible dog ownership within their communities or who have successfully introduced, monitored and responded to legislative issues affecting dog ownership.

“Julie’s efforts to promote responsible dog ownership as well as showcase how dogs can positively impact children, the sick and the elderly are certainly worthy of this distinguished award,” said Noreen Baxter, AKC ‘s VP of Communications. “We thank the Virginia Beach Kennel Club for recognizing Julie’s hard work, and hope that fanciers around the country look to Julie as motivation to create similar programs in their communities.”

Julie Slobodnjak and her 11-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer “Blue,” travel the state to provide therapy assistance at retirement homes, day-care centers and rehabilitation facilities. The dog-and-handler team have participated in TDI ‘s Disaster Stress Relief program, designed to give aid and comfort to victims and their loved ones in disaster areas.

An offshoot of Slobodnjak’s therapy work is “K-9 Safety: Understanding Man’s Best Friend,” an interactive demonstration program for children and adults she created in 2003. The program includes demonstrations of how to approach dogs, proper care and grooming and the obedience commands required for the well-socialized dog. “K-9 Safety” has been presented at many gatherings, including the annual City of Virginia Beach safety camp for children.

“I’ve made this my mission,” Slobodnjak told her local newspaper, The Beacon . “When I found out about all of the facial bites there are in this country and heard about so many misbehaving dogs, I wanted to get the information out early about positive training. I learned why dogs bite, and it seemed to be related to no training at all, or wrong training and techniques, and not trusting or respecting your dog.”

Nominations for the AKC Community Achievement Awards are accepted year-round. Up to three honorees are named each quarter. They receive a certificate and a $1,000 check payable to the club or federation’s public education and canine legislation efforts. To nominate a club, visit