Honouring animals for their bravery

Armed Forces Day will be held on Saturday as the country comes together to commemorate the service of men and women in the British Armed Forces.

But PDSA will also be sounding the trumpet for all the amazing animals who serve in the Armed Forces too.

The charity has an animal awards programme that exists specifically to recognise acts of animal bravery or exceptional devotion to duty. The PDSA Dickin Medal – known internationally as the Animals’ Victoria Cross – has been awarded for military gallantry for over 70 years. Its civilian equivalent, the PDSA Gold Medal, was instituted in 2002.

PDSA senior vet Elaine Pendlebury says the awards programme is part of an enduring commitment by PDSA to recognise the status of animals in society and highlight the huge contribution they make to our lives.

She said: “At PDSA we believe it’s important to remember and highlight the huge role that animals have played throughout history for our Armed Forces. From the carrier pigeons of World War II who delivered critical messages between soldiers on the frontline and their counterparts back home, to the sniffer dogs detecting deadly improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan, their contribution should never be underestimated or forgotten.

“The PDSA Dickin Medal was established by our founder Maria Dickin, CBE, and each one acknowledges an outstanding act of bravery displayed by an animal serving with the armed forces or civil defence units in any theatre of war. To date, 65 PDSA Dickin Medals have been awarded to courageous dogs, horses, messenger pigeons and a naval cat.

The latest animal to receive the PDSA Dickin Medal was military working dog Sasha, who was posthumously bestowed the honour in May 2014. The four-year-old Labrador was killed along with her handler, Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe, in a Taliban ambush in July 2008. Sasha is credited with 15 operational finds, detecting explosive devices as well as mortars, mines and other weapons.

To find out more about PDSA’s animal awards programme, including the PDSA Dickin Medal, please visit www.pdsa.org.uk/awards