The Animal Hero Awards are back for the seventh year – with some incredible stories of bravery and dedication in the animal world.

From animal welfare officers who have rescued pets from some of the most appalling situations, to therapy dogs helping children to read – their heartwarming stories are inspiring.

Co-host Helen Glover said: “The Animal Hero Awards are all about the winners, and it’s going to be such a pleasure to meet them, and to help them celebrate.

“I know there will be plenty of emotional moments, but I hope we’ll all have a good laugh too. It’s going to be a fantastic night.”

Claire Horton, Battersea Chief Executive commented: “The Animal Hero Awards really demonstrate the bravery and resilience of animals and the difference they make to our lives.

“Battersea is honoured to celebrate such incredible animals and the inspirational and tireless people who devote their lives to protecting and safeguarding our fellow creatures. They truly are all heroes.”

Here are the winners and their heroic stories

Outstanding Contribution: Chris Packham

The naturalist, TV presenter and conservationist was honoured with the Outstanding Contribution award for being one of Britain’s most powerful voices in the natural work.

Since he could crawl Chris has been an ardent nature lover – as a toddler he would search the family garden in Southampton for ladybirds to rescue and he spent his teenage years studying birds, badgers and other wildlife.

Chris, 58, studied Zoology at Southampton University and trained to be a wildlife cameraman before swapping for a career in front of the camera, presenting award-winning The Really Wild Show from 1986 until 1995.

He has become one of our best-loved wildlife presenters, with the hugely popular Springwatch, and its BBC spin-off shows.

Throughout his career, he has been a fierce opponent of the badger cull, hunting and a leading campaigner against driven grouse shooting. 

Chris also co-founded the Wild Justice campaign group which takes legal action on the behalf of wildlife against public bodies who are failing to protect species and their habitats.

Special Recognition: Rich Hardy

Undercover investigator Rich has exposed some of the most heinous examples of animal abuse around the world for nearly 20 years.

Rich’s pictures and video footage from inside places such as abattoirs, factories, circuses and livestock markets have been used worldwide by more than 20 international animal protection charities.

They have helped to launch campaigns, change laws and inspire people to act for animals. 

Rich has documented animal suffering in 28 countries, providing organisations with key evidence to push for new welfare laws, pursue animal cruelty prosecutions or raise public awareness about the need to treat animals with kindness and respect.

His many assignments have included infiltrating fur trappers in the USA and monkey breeding farms in Asia, as well as undercover investigations into the meat industry, live exports, ritual slaughter of sheep in Singapore, and the horrific battery farming of rabbits for use in pet food sold in Britain.

Although his work has been widely featured in campaigns and news outlets, he has always remained anonymous to allow him to continue working undercover.

His identity can now be revealed as he is giving up undercover work to focus on activism and campaigning.

Young Animal Hero of the Year: Finlay Pringle

Wildlife and plastic pollution campaigner Finlay was hailed a hero by Chris Packham for his climate change campaign work.

Finlay regularly protests, speaks at events and is a powerful voice for the planet.

He has organised a weekly climate mini strike at his school in Ullapool, protesting at the gates from 8.45am to 9.30am every Friday.

In March, he travelled to the European Parliament to lobby politicians over climate change.

Finlay, who was one of only three children from the UK to join pupils from countries across the world, said: “I want the people who make decisions over our lives to see this world is dying. I want them to reduce man’s carbon footprint as well as cut back on farming and plastic use.”

In June, he travelled to Vancouver on an international scholarship to attend the prestigious Ocean Heroes Bootcamp. The three-day event trains young people to be global ambassadors for fighting plastic pollution.

In his spare time, he also volunteers with local wildlife and marine conservation groups and takes part in beach cleans.

Young Animal Hero of the Year: Sophie Smith and Kyra Barboutis

Schoolgirls Sophie and Kyra have looked after more than 500 hedgehogs after setting up their own ‘hogspital’ to care for local wildlife.

Sophie and Kyra were inspired to help at the age of nine, after hearing that UK hedgehog populations had fallen from 30 million in 1950 to 1.5 million today.

With the support of their parents, Sophie and Kyra started the Facebook group Hedgehog Friendly Town, as part of a school project in the summer holidays.

Now they have spaces in their sheds and back gardens where they take care of injured hedgehogs. They have also enlisted local vets to help with medical support.

Sophie and Kyra also care for abandoned baby hedgehogs – hoglets – who need feeding frequently, requiring the girls to tend to them immediately after school, into the evening and again at 6am.

They have given many of their patient’s funny names, including Bruce Quillis, Amy Spinehouse, David Hasselhog, Hoggy Willoughby, Dick Van Spike and Quilliam Shakespeare.

Battersea Rescue Animal of the Year: Fleur (Dog)

Fleur survived horrific ill-treatment in Romania before being rescued from a kill shelter and becoming a therapy dog in the UK.

The Collie cross, was taken from the streets of Bucharest by dog catchers, and after a botched spaying which left her intestines hanging outside her body, was left to die.

After she was rescued by the Valgrays animal charity, Wendy Morris saw her picture on their website, and instantly decided to adopt her.

Three weeks after starting her new life in Britain with Wendy and her two other rescue dogs, she fell seriously ill with a rotten bowel.

The vet gave her a 1% chance of survival and recommended euthanasia, but Wendy sought a second opinion from specialists at the Royal Veterinary College in Potters Bar.

After rare and complex surgery, and weeks in intensive care, Fleur made a full recovery.

She has now become a Pets as Therapy Read2dog, going into primary schools to help children read and communicate. She also visits nursing and residential homes and is an ambassador for rescue dogs.

Inspirational Animal of the Year: Barrie (Dog)

Barrie was pulled from the rubble in war-torn Syria and is thriving after 3,000-mile trip to be reunited with the former soldier who saved her

Bomb disposal expert Sean Laidlaw was clearing a bombed-out school in February 2018, when he heard whimpering from beneath the rubble.

He dug down and discovered Barrie, a tiny Asian Shepherd cross puppy.

She was terrified, and surrounded by four dead puppies, and initially shied away from Sean – but he refused to give up. 

Sean brought her food and drink and cordoned off the area as it wasn’t safe from explosives.

After three days she grew to trust him, and the two became inseparable over the following three months he was working in Syria.

Sean, who served for 10 years in the Royal Engineers, says Barrie helped him cope with PTSD.

He said: “It may come across that I saved Barrie’s life, but I feel like she saved mine. You can only imagine how bad Syria is, and to have a companion, it kept my mind away from all the things I was seeing and doing out there.”

People’s Postcode Lottery Local Hero: Linda Goodman

Linda founded anti-puppy farm campaign CARIAD and has spearheaded changes in the law -making personal sacrifices to illustrate the plight of farmed dogs

The 56-year-old launched CARIAD (Care And Respect Includes All Dogs) in 2011, to end puppy farming in Wales, which produces more puppies than any other part of the UK.

The tireless campaigner has since created a coalition of 29 small Welsh animal charities and lobbied the Welsh government and councils for a successful reduction of staff ratios at these farms from 30 to 20:1.

Such is her dedication to the cause that in 2012, Linda spent seven days incarcerated in an outbuilding to show the sensory deprivation of puppies in farms, with her experience broadcast live online.

Linda also played a key role in the Lucy’s Law team, backed by the Daily Mirror, which successfully campaigned to stop the trade in puppies by pet shops and third-party dealers.

Services to Wildlife: Eduardo Goncalves

Former chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, Eduardo founded the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, helping make it front page news

At the League Against Cruel Sports, Eduardo campaigned against proposals to bring back foxhunting.

He also lobbied then environment secretary Michael Gove to increase jail sentences for dogfighting.

It came after a major undercover investigation revealed criminal gangs across Europe were breeding and shipping dogs into the UK for organised fights with prizes of up to £50,000.

After stepping down from his role in 2018 due to ill-health, he set up the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting to highlight how some of the world’s most endangered species are being killed for sport in their thousands.

Eduardo is also leading an international campaign to close a loophole in regulations which currently allow trophy hunters to shoot critically endangered wildlife.

Special Recognition: Inspector Kevin Kelly

Wildlife super cop Kevin set up and leads a record-breaking team targeting wildlife crime.

In 2017, the animal-loving police officer was named as Wildlife Law Enforcer of the Year at the Wildlife Crime Conference for his tireless and innovative work in tackling rural crime in North Yorkshire.

Kevin initially started working on offences that affected animals in his spare time but persuaded bosses to set up a dedicated wildlife team.

He is now influencing national and regional policy in tackling criminals involved in illegal activities like hare coursing – setting templates for investigations and how to interview suspects.  

His job varies from protecting bats and great crested newts to prosecuting people involved in illegal foxhunting and the killing of birds of prey.

In 2008, Kevin also secured North Yorkshire Police’s first ever convictions under the Hunting Act against three men involved in fox hunting.

Special Recognition: Jay Wilde

Cattle farmer Jay became a vegan campaigner and donated his cows to an animal sanctuary because he could not bear to send them to slaughter

After his decision became known, local-residents mocked him and began referring to his property as the funny farm.

His brother-in-law, who runs a cattle farm six miles away, told him that he was mad to give away animals worth £40,000 at market.

Jay took over Bradley Nook Farm in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, when his father died in 2011 and for the next few years found it “soul-destroying” every time he consigned an animal to “a terrifying death” at an abattoir.

He also felt guilty about the environmental impact of rearing cattle for beef and first tried to offset the harm by installing solar panels.

Eventually he decided to stop farming animals and worked with the Vegan Society to donate 59 of his cows to live out their natural lives at Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk.

Hero Animal of the Year: Mali (Dog)

Mali sniffed out insurgents and bombs under heavy fire as British special forces and Afghan troops raided a Taliban-held hotel in Kabul.

Footage from the battle in 2012 showed the Belgian Malinois staying calm as commandos scaled an outside wall and hauled him up several floors to bring him into action.

Sent through direct fire to search for explosives, he was hoisted up the outside of the building several times. He also skilfully detected the presence of enemy fighters.

Despite being injured by three grenade blasts – causing damage to his chest, legs, ears and teeth – he persevered in the seven-and-a-half-hour mission.

Mali retired from frontline duties after lengthy treatment for injuries sustained in the firefight but is still involved in training.

Last November the eight-year-old was honoured with a PDSA Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Fundraiser of the Year: Tony Carlisle

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Tony founded the Great North Dog Walk, which has helped to raise millions of pounds for animal causes, despite suffering a series of health problems himself.

Tony’s first event in 1990 involved just 12 schoolchildren with 13 dogs.

Since then, the annual charity walk has raised more than £7.27 million for various animal charities, with an estimated 40,000 dogs taking part in 2018, and 185 different breeds.

The former teacher has carried on with his fundraising activities despite battling health problems including a heart attack, three heart operations, two skin cancer operations and diabetes.

Unfortunately, he was forced to cancel the 2019 event on doctors’ orders after nearly dying from sepsis earlier this year – but says he will however be back in time for the 30th anniversary walk in 2020.

The Great North Dog Walk holds several Guinness World Records as the world’s largest charity dog walk.