OBE for Animals?
It’s the animal equivalent of the OBE and a new honour created by leading veterinary charity, the PDSA. The first to receive this Order of Merit are ten police horses and a police dog. The horses and dog (representing all police dogs) from the Metropolitan Police were given their awards for helping to protect the public and safeguard property during the London riots in 2011. A spokesperson for the PDSA said the riots had tested the devotion to duty of the dogs and horses and that they had ‘performed over and above’ their normal call of duty.
The Line of Duty
During the riots, the horses and their mounted officers were sent to Seven Sisters Police Station, where buildings and vehicles were already alight. They had to protect fellow police officers from a hostile crowd, some of whom were armed with firework rockets. Despite being under attack, the horses stood their ground and eventually forced the crowd to retreat.
The PDSA has been honouring animals that save human lives while putting their own at risk, since World War II. The Dickin Medal is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross and is for acts of gallantry, while the Gold Medal is the equivalent of the non-military counterpart, the George Cross.
Now, the Order of Merit has been added to the PDSA awards so that all other extraordinary animal contributions to society can be honoured. The award recognises animals that display outstanding devotion beyond normal companionship. Recipients are likely to include service animals, such as those in the police force, assistance dogs or medical detection dogs. The first Order of Merit was struck at court jewellers Cleave and Company in London in May this year.
Jan McLoughlin, PDSA Director General, said the award would recognise the broader contribution made to society by animals, such as pets doing something exceptional, police dogs safeguarding the general public, or dogs visiting nursing home residents to offer companionship and help complement therapy.