Hallmark Joins Launch of Hero Dog Awards Voting

Hallmark Channel joined The American Humane Association in its launch today (March 9) of the 2015 Hero Dog Awards contest to honor corageous canines and reward animal welfare groups. Hallmark Channel is the initiative's exclusive media partner.

More than 165 dogs that "have gone above and beyond to protect and love their country, their handlers and their owners" were nominated by individuals, communities and partner animal welfare charities for the honor, the American Humane Association said.

On Sept. 19, eight finalists will get the red carpet treatment in Los Angeles at the fifth annual Hero Dog Awards show, where the 2015 American Hero Dog will be revealed. Hallmark tapes the show live and traditionally airs it as a two-hour special around the end of October, just before the start of the holiday season, a network spokeswoman said.

Hallmark also helps produce tribute videos profiling the eight top dogs that are presented during the awards show. The videos were inspired by and modeled after CNN's annual Heroes special, which profiles outstanding Americans; production crews travel to each dog's hometown to capture and tell their individual stories, the spokeswoman said. Hallmark hosts tribute videos from the past four years on its website.

Additionally, Hallmark provides social-media and public relations support for the American Humane Association's Hero Dog Awards contest site.

The public is invited to participate through two rounds of online voting for the best dogs in eight categories that emphasize the bond between dogs and humans: Military Dogs, Arson Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Law Enforcement Dogs, Search & Rescue Dogs and Emerging Hero Dogs -- ordinary dogs that do extraordinary things.

The first round of public voting, which starts today and continues through May 15, will narrow the field of 169 dogs down to 24 -- the top three in each category. A second round of voting, by the general public and a roster of celebrity judges (May 25-June 26), will determine the top dog in each category -- the eight finalists.

Each dog in the contest has a designated charity partner that will win $2,500 if its dog is a category winner; the overall winner's charity will also receive an additional $5,000 prize. Like the American Humane Society, the charity partners,are focused on the importance of the human-animal bond, the AHA said.

Hallmark has been involved with the Hero Dog Awards since its innaugural year, 2011. Since then nearly 1,000 dogs have been entered in the contest. The program "is one way we can acknowledge and celebrate our canine heroes, while informing the public about the many ways dogs enrich, guard, and save our lives every day,” said Bill Abbott, Crown Media Family Networks president and CEO.

"Dogs enrich our lives, protect our soldiers, keep us safe and loved, and to recognize them and their accomplishments once a year is the least we can do," Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association's president and CEO, said.

The presenting sponsor of the awards is the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, a nonprofit supporting several different causes, including animal welfare.This is the fourth year the organization has been involved with the Hero Dog Awards.

"All animals are heroes to someone and every animal deserves a loving home," Pope said. "My goal is to ensure that each and every one receives one."