In 2012, we introduced the Unsung Hero Award to recognize the thousands of volunteers doing incredible work on behalf of homeless animals. This year, we are again asking the public to nominate those who have gone above and beyond for shelters and rescue organizations in their area. We'll share a few of the most inspiring stories on our site and announce the winner during the 2013 Petties broadcast. The recipient receives a personalized Petties trophy and a $10,000 donation to the shelter or rescue organization of his or her choice.

2013 Unsung Hero

Jason Flatt

Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue

  • Dallas, Georgia
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Devotion. Integrity. Compassion. Heart. Jason Flatt is the most genuine person I know. He loves dogs and will do anything and everything in his power to help them. He works hard to educate people about Pit Bulls in a nonjudgmental way. He has helped countless dogs by going into some of the most dangerous and hostile situations. His "Tails in the Hood" program takes him into extremely unstable neighborhoods because he believes that kindness, education, and assistance will change a dog's circumstance, not condemnation and force.

Jason networks and cooperates with other rescue organizations to save dogs all over the East Coast. "Beat the Heat" is in its second year and alongside several other rescues, Jason and his friends have spayed, neutered, and vaccinated hundreds of animals that would never have received this basic care. You only have to talk to Jason for a few minutes to realize that this is a man who will do whatever it takes to help an animal in need. I know beyond a doubt that if I called Jason and asked for help for an animal he wouldn't hesistate to give his assistance. We now have 3 of Jason's Forlorn dogs as members of our family and have known Jason for years. What we have observed is a man on a mission to save animals and create change. He has grown even more determined to reach more people and save more dogs as the years have gone by.

2013 Unsung Hero Finalists

Bill Bihn

Ninna's Road to Rescue

  • Benton, Lousiana
Bill Bihn

I met Bill Bihn in 2009 when I was shelter manager for another local animal shelter when he came in offering to volunteer. Bill was a retired business owner and had time on his hands and wanted to help animals. In March of 2012, I left that shelter to start my own rescue, Ninna's Road to Rescue, and Bill followed, along with a few other folks who supported my efforts to continue rescue. After purchasing the building, which we now dub the "Road House" and shortly thereafter, the "Meow House"; there were many things that needed to be done to make the rescue functional for the animals and volunteers.

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Rise Chontos

In Care of Cats

  • Elizabeth, Pennsylvania
Rise Chontos

Rise works incredibly hard and with VERY limited resources and support to run her shelter. In Care of Cats is amazing, unlike anything else we have in the area. I've been there before and it is clear that the cats are so grateful for the work she does. Few individuals and shelters would take the time, energy, and money to run such an organization for cats of any kind. ICC offers a hospice for cats who are terminal but who have quality of life remaining...unwanted animals by most, yet so deeply loved and cared for by Rise.

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Gigi Graves

Our Pal's Place

  • Marietta, Georgia
Gigi Graves

I am nominating Gigi Graves for her commitment to forgotten animals in the metro Atlanta and rural Georgia area. Over twelve years ago, she lost her beloved pet and went to the shelter to find a new family member. She was disheartened by the number of animals and their living conditions, so she started volunteering her time and money to rescue as many animals as she could.

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Eldad Hager

Hope for Paws

  • Los Angeles, California
Eldad Hager

I have been following this rescue group for awhile now and like any group who does this amazing work, they deserve to be recognized. I have watched with amazement while Eldad patiently coaxes a scared, hungry dog into his arms. He treats all his rescues with love and tenderness. His wife, fellow rescuers, and Eldad travel all over the USA doing their best rescues.

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Beth McDuffie

Eagle's Den Animal Rescue

  • Clarkton, North Carolina
Beth McDuffie

Beth McDuffie could have chosen to do anything when she retired, yet she gives everything she has to some of the most harshly abused, neglected and injured animals in her area. I could not write enough words to justify every reason Mrs. McDuffie deserves this recognition. The sacrifices this woman (and her husband) make, solely for the sake of animals, exceed what I've seen from any other single person.

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Jack Novoselski

SouthEast Beagle Rescue, Inc

  • Tampa, Florida
Jack Novoselski

Jack became involved in animal rescue work in 2004 and spent time volunteering to help the animals after Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. Since retiring, for the third time, in 2007, Jack has devoted himself to rescuing Beagles and after being president of a local Beagle rescue organization for five years founded the SouthEast Beagle Rescue in January 2011. He believed that rescue organizations needed to find new and inventive ways to increase their adoptions and save the lives of more animals.

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Angela Padilla

Northern California Family Dog Rescue

  • San Francisco, California
Angela Padilla

Angela was only 36 years old when she was diagnosed with a very aggressive, high-risk case of breast cancer in 2002. She had just adopted her infant daughter Bella. During cancer treatment, Angela started working with rescue dogs, spending every afternoon socializing dogs at San Francisco's public shelter and eventually becoming a foster for hundreds of homeless dogs. Angela always says, "Saving dogs helped save my life. The profound love that rescue dogs give to the people who save them helped me win my battle with breast cancer."

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Theresa Strader

National Dog Mill Rescue

  • Peyton, Colorado
Theresa Strader

In February 2007, Theresa Strader, a nurse, wife, and mother in Colorado Spring and a fan of Italian Greyhounds, heard about a dog auction in Missouri through a one-sentence email. As a life-time supporter of rescue and shelter dogs, she wanted to help. When she and her daughter arrived, they saw a female Italian Greyhound sitting up in the back of a cage in a dark barn. The dog was sitting on her back legs, rubbing her stomach with her front paws. She looked Theresa square in the yes and asked her for help. Theresa knew she couldn't leave the auction without #251.

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Tani Uglam

Collie and Sheltie Rescue of SE Virginia

  • Tidewater, Virginia
Tani Uglam

Tani Uglam has been a long standing volunteer at the Collie Sheltie Rescue of SE VA. In 2007, the president of our rescue resigned and left us with a huge void, caused endless confusion, and basically left us with no formal way of accounting for money, foster families and the dogs in their care, previous adopters, and those wanting to adopt from us. We were a mess! Tani quickly volunteered to step in and assumed the roles of president, adoption, and foster coordinator (no one else even offered).

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Previous Winner

2012

Lou Hays

Humane Society of Cherokee County

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On behalf of the Humane Society of Cherokee County (HSCC) in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, I am nominating Lou Hays for the Petties Unsung Hero Award. Lou is a retired senior citizen who has served HSCC for 12 years and been a Board Director for nine one-year terms, twice serving as President. He is an unpaid volunteer who has contributed to HSCC an average of 40 hours per week and 2,000 hours a year of his time for many years. Following are examples of Louís contributions to HSCC.

Lou rescues a monthly average of 30-35 dogs in Cherokee County, one of the poorest in Oklahoma. Lou spends 4-5 days a week rescuing dogs and puppies while driving a weekly average of 400-500 miles and using 25 gallons of gasoline at his own expense. He launched HSCC’s dog transporting program in 2007.

The program has allowed dogs to be transferred to other cities such as Denver and Chicago where the dogs have a better chance of being adopted. Since the program started, nearly 2,000 dogs have been transported and adopted. An average of 25-50 dogs are transported each month - 272 so far in 2012.

Lou was 100% responsible for establishing this program, continues to manage it, and makes most of the transport trips himself. He administers medicines and treatments to 20-40 dogs and puppies each month including DHPP, Bordetella, worming medicine, Frontline, and dips dogs to eliminate fleas and ticks.

He secured significant grants for HSCC including one in 2010 for $10,000 to cover operating expenses and one in 2011 for over $26,000 to pay off a construction loan. He also creates the annual year-end fundraising report and letter to the community, raising between $20,000 and $30,000 for HSCC.

Lou and his wife have fostered many dogs over the years, adopting out 25-30 dogs a year. He provides general shelter support performing such tasks as obtaining and stocking medicine, food and supplies, taking sick dogs to and from veterinarian offices, participating in local and out-of-town adopt-a-thons, and tracking and picking up dog food donations from other organizations.

He follows up on animal abuse calls and has appeared in court regarding legal cases with abusers. Several cases have been won usually with the animal abuser having to donate a $500 fine to HSCC.

The above list of accomplishments is an amazing testimony to this exceptional volunteer’s devotion to animals and to his generosity and character.