Press Releases

Nominations sought for International Canine Health Awards 2020

4th December 2019 - 3:50 PM


The International Canine Health Awards are returning for the eighth year to recognise and celebrate some of the world’s finest researchers and scientists whose work has had a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of dogs.

The awards, which are run by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, include substantial cash prizes donated by Vernon and Shirley Hill, founders of Metro Bank, to go towards new or continued research. The ceremony will take place in May/June 2020 (date and venue to be confirmed) and nominations and applications will be welcomed from 4th December 2019.

With a prize fund totalling £66,000, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust is urging people to nominate themselves or their peers by 31st January 2020.

The awards will be judged by an eminent panel drawn from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research, including experts in each of the short-listed nominees' selected fields.

The four International Canine Health Awards are:

  • International Prize in Canine Health – for outstanding contributions in the field of canine health and welfare, with a prize fund of £40,000 for future projects. The award will be presented to one individual or a group who are currently involved in world class innovation, with more still to contribute.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – with a £10,000 prize fund, this award will go to a veterinarian or scientist working in a related discipline who has dedicated much of their career to advancing the health and welfare of dogs. The award will be presented to an individual who has made a significant impact towards canine health and welfare on a world stage.
  • UK Student Inspiration Awards, which will be split into undergraduate and postgraduate awards – with a prize fund of £10,000 for the postgraduate and £5,000 for the undergraduate winner, these prizes will aid further education costs, the development of their careers, or the creation/continuation of a project. The awards will be presented to extraordinary students studying at a British veterinary school who demonstrate the potential to significantly advance the frontiers of veterinary medicine and research in the field of dogs.
  • Breed Health Coordinator Award – with a £1,000 prize fund, judges will be looking for individuals from breed clubs or councils who have demonstrated a dedication to supporting health and welfare within their breed over the previous year. Some of the aspects that will be considered include starting or coordinating a new project or resource for the breed, such as a health website or health survey, and good communication with the Kennel Club and other key stakeholders.

Dr Andrew Higgins, Chairman of the judging panel and trustee of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the awards, said: "The International Canine Health Awards recognises and commends the dedication shown by scientists and veterinarians in the field of dog health.

“We are very grateful for the generous funding from Vernon and Shirley Hill, as well as support from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which enables us to celebrate those who work tirelessly for the health and welfare of man’s best friend.

“We would highly recommend that people nominate a peer or colleague, or even themselves, if you feel that they have made, or will make, a significant contribution to the health and welfare of dogs.”

Vernon Hill, founder and Chairman Emeritus of Metro Bank, and whose major gift underwrites the awards, said: "We are extremely proud to support the International Canine Health Awards once again, to honour the people who are committed to transforming and improving the lives of dogs across the world.

“As a dog owner myself, it’s a subject extremely close to our hearts at Metro Bank, and it’s incredible to see how many people, from so many different countries, dedicate their whole lives to their work, and all for the good of the dogs.”

This year’s winners included Dr Danika Bannasch, recipient of the International Award, who was recognised for her significant contributions to developments in canine genetics. In particular, the development of genetic tests for seven different canine diseases, including the hormonal defect, hyperadrenocorticism and the bone development condition, chondrodystrophy.

Chondrodystrophy and associated intervertebral disk diseases (IVDD) affect millions of dogs worldwide and cause severe pain and suffering in those dogs, resulting in paralysis or expensive surgical intervention in some cases.  The identification of the mutation responsible allows the possibility of reducing, or even eliminating IVDD in dog breeds through the use of genetic testing.

Speaking about the award, Danika said: “This is an incredible honour. I have devoted my life to dog genetics and I hope that in the long run less dogs will suffer from conditions that are preventable by genetics and genetic testing.”

Associate Professor Gary Johnson won the Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifelong work dedicated to canine genetic disease, which is believed to have saved the lives of countless dogs.

He was responsible for establishing the canine buccal mucosa bleeding time test as the standard procedure for detecting these conditions in dogs. His laboratory in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri offers approximately 40 different genetic tests for diseases and was one of the first in the world to adopt whole genome sequencing as the primary strategy for identifying genetic mutations associated with heritable disease in dogs and other domestic species.

Speaking about his award, Gary said: “This is far and away the most prestigious award I have received in my 76 years and it is doubtful that anything will come close in the future. I would like the prize money to be donated to the University of Missouri so that we can identify the molecular genetic causes for heritable canine diseases.”

This year’s other winners were Adrian Baez-Ortega, who won the Postgraduate Student Inspiration Award to help further his research into the evolution of canine transmissible venereal tumours (CTVT), a condition that has infected domestic dogs for the past 8,000 years and is found in around 100 countries worldwide.

After winning the award, Adrian commented: “I feel immensely honoured to have been selected for this award.

“Canine transmissible venereal tumour is a particularly nasty and painful cancer, normally associated with free-roaming or street dogs, where it is spread through mating. I am really glad the award funds will allow me to gain more knowledge about how CTVT interacts with each tumour’s host dog and which genes allow CTVT to systemically escape the immune system of infected dogs, in the hope that better understanding might lead to better treatment of this disease.”

Nivan Mamak won the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award for her current work investigating paroxysmal dyskinesia, a genetic disorder in Golden Retrievers which causes abnormal spasmodic movements of the hind limbs which can be mistaken for epileptic seizures.

Speaking about her win, Nivan said: "Winning this award means everything. The prestige and honour of the award means that my hard work over the past nine months has been recognised and appreciated. It encourages me to continue my work and keep contributing to this field.

“It is such a huge boost for my confidence and means a huge leap forward to where I want to be in the future.”

Liz Branscombe won the Breed Health Coordinator of the Year Award for her hard work educating breeders and owners about the health of the Flat-Coated Retriever, after 33 years dedicated to the breed.

In 2018, Liz played a key role in the development and promotion of the Kennel Club’s breed health and conservation plan, working with different breed organisations to complete the resulting action plan which will drive continual health improvements in the breed. She has also been involved with various initiatives that will benefit the health of pedigree dogs, such as the cause of death register which aims to establish an online source of information on the major health issues affecting Flat-Coated Retrievers.

Liz commented: “This award is recognition not only for what I do as Breed Health Coordinator, but also in recognition of the contribution that the Flat-Coated Retriever Society health committee and health representatives from the other breed organisations make towards promoting our breed health initiatives.”

All nominations for the 2020 awards should be made via the online application form on the Kennel Club website by 31st January 2020 at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/ICHA. If you have any queries regarding the application process, please contact Andrea Harris at the Kennel Club via icha@thekennelclub.org.uk.


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