An abused greyhound who now helps other foster dogs and a RSPCA officer nicknamed ‘Santa Paws’ have been named animal heroes at an awards ceremony last night (Thursday, November 28).

Ellie the greyhoundThe winners of the first ever Animal Hero Awards were announced at a star-studded and heart-warming evening at The Langham Hotel in London, hosted by TV star and animal lover Amanda Holden. The event was launched by The Daily Mirror in partnership with us and celebrates tales of courageous pets and those that have overcome difficulties, as well as outstanding individuals and businesses which have made a difference to animal welfare.

Ellie the greyhound wins Hero Animal of the Year

We presented two of the awards on the night. The winner of the first – Hero Animal of the Year – was Ellie the greyhound. The ten-year-old former racing dog spent years living in a concrete kennel with little food or bedding, and was extremely emaciated and covered in fleas, pressure sores and infected burns caused by boiling water or fat when she was finally rescued.

She now spends every weekend fundraising for Greyhound Rescue West of England; helps newer foster dogs adjust to their lives post-rescue; and can even sense when an older dog is at the end of his or her life – and she will cuddle the dog during his or her final hours.

TV presenter Emma Crosby, who presented the award with us, said:

“Ellie was such a worthy winner – her story is a real tear jerker and she gives voice to what so many other greyhounds have to go through.


“What is so upsetting is the state she was in when the owners found her. The way she turned this around to become the caring animal she is today is a testament to those who rescued her as well as herself.”

Animal Collection Officer Derek Hampson won the RSPCA Superstar of the Year Award. He has worked for the organisation for more than 25 years and is well known in his native Liverpool for his commitment to animal welfare – dropping everything whenever there is a rescue to help out at or fundraising event to support.

Every Christmas he grows a beard, dresses up in red and white and goes to the animal centres as ‘Santa Paws’. Owners come from far and wide with their dogs for a Christmassy treat, donating to the charity for the pleasure.

The star-studded event also featured awards such as the Rescue Animal of the Year, the Celebrity Animal Fan of the Year, The Innovation Award, the Responsible Business Award, and the Young Animal Enthusiast of the Year which was won by 7-year-old Nathan Williams.

Young award winner an inspiration to everyone

Nathan Williams, winner of Young Animal Enthusiast of the Year.Nathan was given the award because he is an inspiration to everyone at the RSPCA Canterbury, Dover and District branch, where he has helped raise hundreds of pounds for a little cat called Robbie.

Robbie was discovered badly burnt, after he was trapped in a sofa which had been set alight. With his body, limbs and ears all burnt, Robbie needed emergency care and lots of TLC. And Nathan has provided help with both. Nathan, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of five, finds managing his emotions difficult, but he has really become involved in helping the little one-year-old cat, who has undergone skin grafts, lost a leg and some toes and still has some way to go.

As well as raising £678 with a sponsored scoot, Nathan regularly visits Robbie to give him comfort, and has set up a Facebook page to appeal for donations for Robbie’s medical bills.

Mum Sadie said:

“It was all Nathan’s idea, and once he gets an idea he likes to run with it.”

The awards were presented by a glittering line-up of celebrities with a passion for animals and their welfare such as McFly (who also performed); Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding; Ben Fogle; Brian May and Anita Dobson; Pussycat Dolls Kimberly Wyatt and Ashley Roberts; Helen Worth from Coronation Street; Deborah Meaden from Dragon’s Den and Strictly Come Dancing; Eastenders’ actress Shona McGarty; TV presenters Kate Garraway and Ashleigh and Pudsey from Britains Got Talent.

We can’t do it without you

Our ‘Everyday Heroes’ campaign aims to highlight the unimaginable dangers facing many animals and help support the brave charity workers who try to protect them.

The charity can only help thanks to donations from the public, so please give what you can. To help us carry out this vital work like this text HERO to 60155 to give £3 (texts cost £3 + one standard network rate message).