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Amazing pets have been at the heart of British family life more than ever since the start of the pandemic. Whatever challenges we face, our pets are always by our side, offering unconditional love and support. They keep us company, they keep us fit and they give an invaluable boost to our mental health.

That is why the team behind the Animal Hero Awards, this year launched the inaugural Mirror People’s Pet Awards. The Awards, run with innovative pet food, treats and toys brand Webbox and charity partner Dogs Trust, will celebrate the unique bond we have with our pets, and the inspirational ways they change our lives.

Dawn Ashley, 58, from Benfleet has today been announced as the winner of the Special Recognition Award for campaigning to change the law to stop healthy rescue pets being euthanised by vets.

Tuk, a Mioritic Shepherd dog, was rescued from the streets of Romania as a five‑week‑old puppy and rehomed in the UK. But the adoption went wrong and the dog was subsequently advertised on Gumtree despite the owners having signed a contract not to pass him.

At 18 months old and healthy, Tuk was euthanised by a vet who failed to scan his original chip. Had they checked, it would have been discovered the person who requested euthanasia was not the registered keeper, and that the rescue charity would have guaranteed him a home for life.

Following his death, campaigners Dawn and Sue Williams from Bishop’s Stortford, launched an online petition called ‘Tuks Law’ so no healthy animal can be destroyed by a vet without first scanning the pet’s microchip to confirm the person requesting euthanasia has the authority to do so. In under five months they secured 121,000 signatures but despite being introduced in Parliament last year, the law is yet to pass.

Dawn has vowed not to give up.

All of this year’s inspirational winners will be presented with their awards at a glittering, star-studded dinner at London’s Grosvenor House on Thursday night, after first walking the red carpet. It is guaranteed to be one of the most heart-warming nights of the year, packed with emotion, celebrity surprises and magical moments that are sure to capture the nation’s hearts. All of which can be seen when the Awards premiere on YouTube on 14th December at 7pm.

Hosting the awards, in its inaugural year, is stand-up comedian and TV presenter Judi Love who said “I’m absolutely thrilled to be hosting the first ever Mirror People’s Pet Awards. The winners are amazing, and I’ve been crying and laughing in equal measure when I’ve been finding out all about them. I know it’s going to be an incredible show. We’ll have a tiny horse on stage, what’s not to like?”

Dogs Trust Chief Executive Owen Sharp said “It’s a wonderful year to be the charity partner for the People’s Pet Awards, celebrating the special bond we have with our pets. Our relationship with our pets, and our dogs in particular, was a lifeline for so many of us during the pandemic, so we’re thrilled to be able to honour heroes such as the great Galahad, winner of the Dogs Trust Dog of the Year. But they’re all heroes and the stories behind the award winners – from campaigners working to change the law to help animals, to animals who have changed people’s lives – will melt your heart.”