This Awards Ceremony Honors the Biggest Animal Heroes

The Animal Action Awards also honors everyday heroes who have done extraordinary things for animals.


(Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz /

Each year, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) recognizes the United Kingdom’s biggest animal activists at the Animal Action Awards. Honorees received the royal treatment at this year’s ceremony hosted on October 16 by the House of Lords by Baroness Gale and presented by naturalist and broadcaster, Bill Oddie.

A three-year-old golden retriever named Ralph stole the show winning The Animal of the Year Award. The remarkable dog provides more than just companionship for Hertfordshire man, Paul Phillips, who became paralyzed from the neck down after a car crash in 2012. Ralph helps Phillips with everyday tasks like picking things up, opening and closing doors, and turning on lights, heaters, and the TV, enabling Phillips to live in his own apartment.

“Having him by my side has made me more independent, and a lot healthier. I am no longer anxious, or in and out of hospital constantly. I take him out for a long walk on my own every day,” says Phillips.


Also honored were Christine and George Rockingham, a couple from Norfolk who received The Lifetime Achievement Award for rescuing thousands of neglected and injured animals over the last 24 years. The animal sanctuary has become home to over 1,400 animals, from horses to hedgehogs, guinea pigs, and peacocks.

Michel Birkenwald won the Local Conservation Award for her work building 100 “hedgehog highways”. Birkenwald found her calling after realizing the hedgehog population had dipped from 50 million to less than one million since the 1950s. The little critters have a difficult time navigating past walls in urban areas. Birkenwald asked for permission from locals to drill little holes in their garden walls allowing Britain’s favorite spiny mammal to find new places to forage.

Michelle Clark of London received The People and Animals Award for her non-profit charity that cares for homeless people and their dogs. Her life changed forever after an encounter with a homeless man who, after collapsing from illness, begged her to care for his dog, Poppy. Since then, she works with a team of volunteers running the Dogs on the Streets (DOTS) program which provides dog care and treatment and supplies food for both dogs and their owners.

The ceremony also honored Chloe Hennegan from the West Midlands for volunteering to rehome over 1,000 abused rabbits along with Trisha Shaw of Warwickshire for her hard work volunteering and fundraising for her local dog rescue center. Cornwall’s Nigel and Sarah Hicks won the International Conservation Award for their work saving injured and orphaned orangutans in Borneo over the last decade.

Debbie Bailey from Derbyshire won the Small Mammal Award for her work providing life-saving vaccinations for badgers. Natalia Doran, of London, also received recognition for running a rehabilitation center aiding abandoned squirrels in the UK.

Founded in 1969, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), is a global non-profit that protects animals and their habitats. The organization works with governments, local communities, and scientists to rescue and rehabilitate animals around the world.

Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of IFAW, remarked, “It’s an honor to be able to highlight the fantastic work carried out by all of the winners of IFAW’s 2018 Animal Action Awards. Each story is inspirational and we hope that these examples will encourage others to do all they can to help protect animals.”

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