Stella and Claire, have tonight, (Sunday 12 March) been announced as the winners of The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award competition at Crufts 2023.
Nine-year-old Stella was a finalist in the Extraordinary Life of a Working Dog category with her owner and handler, PC Claire Todd. Police Dog Stella has just retired from Gloucestershire police after serving eight and a half years as a police drugs, cash and firearms recovery dog.
Despite her sad start to life, as an RSPCA rescue dog, Stella overcame the odds to become the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier Police Dog in the UK in 2014. In her working career, alongside her owner Claire, Stella has found weapons and thousands of pounds worth of drugs and cash, making her a true canine hero, working to keep the nation safe. Outside of her vital work in with the police bringing criminals to justice, she has also helped people overcome their fear of dogs during school and community talks.
Stella was one of five hero dog finalists shortlisted for The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award competition in February. The finalists shared their unique stories of the impact that each dog has made on their life, and the nation cast over 120,000 votes in under a month. The winner was announced in the Resorts World Arena at the NEC in Birmingham on the final day of the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, by broadcaster and award ambassador Kay Burley.
Proud Claire and Stella were presented with their award and a cheque for £5,000 from The Kennel Club Charitable Trust for a dog charity of their choice. The four other finalists also received £1,000 for their chosen dog charity for making it to the prestigious final.
The award this year also honoured those dogs involved with the search and rescue mission in Turkey and Syria after the horrific earthquake. The heroic teams from K9 Search & Rescue NI and UK ISAR were recognised at Crufts with a donation to their organisations and a special award for their bravery and dedication.
Speaking about Stella’s award, Claire said: “It is just incredible, I’m speechless. Really it is amazing and we are so grateful for everyone that has voted. All the dogs are such worthy winners so we are over the moon!
“Stella is so special because she is a rescue dog and also the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier in the country to be a police dog and she has been worth her weight in gold to me.
“It’s brilliant the work police dogs do, they don’t realise how important their job is but to us it is invaluable. The police dogs are incredible and do such an incredible job! I was holding back the tears, I didn’t expect to win!”
Vanessa McAlpine, Crufts Show Manager, said: “Many congratulations to Stella and Claire on winning this year’s Hero Dog Award. Their story is truly inspirational and they are so deserving of this award.
“All the finalists perfectly demonstrated not only the incredible bond they share, but also the positive impact dogs have on all our lives. All the dogs and owners have transformed each other's lives for the better and we thank them all for sharing their stories with us. They are all heroes.”
The five dogs which made the 2023 final were selected by a panel of judges from The Kennel Club, where they were chosen for the lifetime of love and loyalty they give to their owners and for the remarkable difference they make in society.
To find out more about the award, visit crufts.org.uk/herodogaward
The Kennel Club is now calling for the public to nominate their unsung canine heroes who deserve to be recognised for what they do for The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award 2024.
Nominations for four-legged heroes can be made within the following categories at crufts.org.uk/herodogaward:
- Extraordinary life of a working dog – For those who have shown extraordinary qualities working in the army, police force, RAF, airport, search and rescue etc.
- Hero support dog – Celebrating all support and assistance dogs, from medical detection dogs or hearing dogs, to therapy dogs or pets who provide emotional support
- Best friends – Celebrating a canine companion who has seen its owner through the hardest times, as well as the happiest
- Child’s champion – Recognising a dog that has supported and had a positive impact on a child's life (16 years and under)
- Rescue dog hero – for a rescue dog who has overcome adversity and gone on to irrevocably improve the life of their owner/s.
Crufts took place from 9 - 12 March 2023 at the NEC, Birmingham. For more information and results from the show, visit crufts.org.uk.