Animal heroes from around the UK to receive awards

Animal heroes will tomorrow (Tuesday) receive prestigious awards for their outstanding work from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (

IFAW’s annual Animal Action Awards ceremony will be hosted at the House of Lords by Baroness Gale and presented by naturalist and broadcaster Bill Oddie.

This year’s winners include Sarah Fretwell, from Bradford, who offers care to homeless people and their dogs living on the streets. Receiving awards alongside Sarah will be Donna and Graham Street, from the Isle of Wight, who rescue and rehabilitate injured and sick bats and vet Luke Gamble, from the New Forest, who runs charities providing emergency vets and rabies control in areas of the world suffering disaster and extreme poverty.

Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of IFAW, said: “We are delighted to be able to highlight the fantastic work done by all the winners of IFAW’s 2014 Animal Action Awards. Their stories are inspirational and we hope that their example will encourage others to do all they can to protect animals. They are all true animal heroes.”

This year’s Animal of the Year Award goes to nine-year-old Labrador Tyke, a former rescue dog who is reaching the end of his career at Heathrow Airport, sniffing out illegal wildlife trade with Border Force. He is due to retire next year after successful service with the national CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) enforcement team, working to stop any animals or animal products protected by CITES from being smuggled into the UK.

Also honoured is Jan Bevington, from Shetland, for many years of dedicated work helping seals, otters and whales in need of rescue because of illness, injury, oil spills or strandings. Liz Varney, from Sussex, receives an award for rescuing, treating and rehoming thousands of cats. Elsewhere, Emma Billington and Louise Fields, from Manchester, are recognised for finding forever homes for ‘death row’ dogs from overseas, many of which have been severely mistreated.

Awards will also be presented to Megan Morris-Jones, from Shropshire, for nursing and releasing injured and orphaned wildlife and Russell ‘Buster’ Brown will be honoured for his tireless work with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, rescuing animals in distress.

For more information, photos or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling in the IFAW UK Press Office on 020 7587 6708, mobile 07917 507717, email or Amanda Gent on 020 7587 6725, mobile 07860 755876 or email Alternatively visit

Stock photos of award winners are available in advance and photos from the ceremony, which lasts from 12 noon until 2pm, will be available shortly after.

Notes to Editors:
Animal Action Awards, sponsored by the Sunday Express newspaper and Animal Friends Insurance, are part of IFAW’s annual Animal Action Week which takes place around the world involving thousands of schoolchildren who are motivated to get involved in animal welfare.

If you would like to nominate someone for an Animal Action Award for 2015 please write to: IFAW Animal Action Week, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7UD.

About IFAW
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

See below for additional background on winners, awards and regions:

MARINE RESCUE AWARD: JAN BEVINGTON. Wildlife enthusiast Jan Bevington (67), from Shetland, Scotland, has been caring for sick and injured marine wildlife for more than 27 years. After finding a motherless seal beached in front of her house and no local expertise on hand, she went on to set up Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary and has since taken in sick, injured and abandoned seals and otters. She has also played a major role in wildlife rescue after a local oil spill and helps coordinate rescues of stranded whales and dolphins.

DOG RESCUE AWARD: EMMA BILLINGTON AND LOUISE FIELDS. Emma Billington (35), from Eccles, Greater Manchester, set up a dog crèche Daycare4dogs, seven years ago to fund her dream of rescuing and rehoming injured, cruelly treated and ‘death row’ dogs from overseas. Along with partner Louise Fields (28), they have rehomed almost 100 dogs in the last year as they approach the one-year anniversary of their rescue scheme. Many of the dogs they take in have been severely mistreated.

VET OF THE YEAR AWARD: LUKE GAMBLE. Vet Luke Gamble (38), from the New Forest, is a practice principal treating farm and domestic animals through veterinary practices in Cranborne, Dorset and Fordingbridge, Hampshire. He also travels the world treating animals via the two charities he founded – Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS) and Mission Rabies. WVS supports smaller projects where animals are in desperate need around the world with free veterinary care and equipment. With Mission Rabies, Luke aims to rid the Indian State of Goa of the deadly disease within the next three years by vaccinating one street dog every four minutes.

COMPANION ANIMALS AWARD: SARAH FRETWELL. Dog lover Sarah Fretwell (32), from Oakenshaw, Bradford, started Hearthounds in 2012 after meeting a homeless man whose dog had a tumour on its leg which vets refused to treat without payment. She rallied volunteers to help and has been working to provide food, clothing and shelter to homeless people and their dogs ever since. A not for profit group operating initially in Bradford and Leeds, Hearthounds has recently expanded to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

CAT RESCUE AWARD: LIZ VARNEY. Thousands of cats have been rescued over the years by Liz Varney from Dallington, Heathfield. She offers refuge to 200 at any one time at Catastrophes Cat Rescue, run from her home in the East Sussex countryside. She aims to help any cat regardless of age, temperament or behavioural problems, whether wild or tame. Liz has a ‘no kill’ policy and set up a sanctuary as well as rescue and rehoming organisation so that cats which would be difficult to rehome can live out their days in a peaceful home environment with the freedom of a spacious country garden that surrounds the sanctuary.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: MEGAN MORRIS-JONES. Wildlife rescuer Megan Morris-Jones (65), of Much Wenlock, Shropshire, first got involved with rescue while living on the small island of Luing, off the west coast of Scotland, in the 1980s and carrying out ‘beached bird’ surveys for the RSPB. After finding injured sea birds she began to care for them at her home and after moving to Much Wenlock in 1989 found there were no specialised facilities for injured wildlife. She began taking in casualties and set up Cuan House Wildlife Rescue. She has since cared for and rehabilitated countless numbers of birds and animals, including birds of prey, hedgehogs, bats, deer and badgers.

ANIMAL OF THE YEAR AWARD: TYKE. Originally a rescue dog from Battersea Dogs Home, nine-year-old Labrador Tyke is now reaching the end of a successful career at Heathrow Airport, sniffing out illegal wildlife trade with Border Force as part of the national CITES enforcement team. Tyke was trained to sniff out any animals or animal products protected by CITES to prevent them from being smuggled into the UK. He has enabled many successful seizures, including ivory, tiger bone plasters and reptile skin. He is due to retire next year and will be able to relax in comfort for the rest of his days at the home of his handler.

ANIMAL RESCUE AWARD: RUSSELL ‘BUSTER’ BROWN. Firefighter Russell ‘Buster’ Brown (58), has rescued wild and domestic animals, as well as livestock, from a variety of predicaments during his long career, and made it his speciality after becoming an Animal Rescue Specialist with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service five years ago. He has since rescued everything from an owl stuck on a high-rise balcony to stray horses trapped in swimming pools. More serious callouts have involved barn fires endangering horses and cattle.

CONSERVATION AWARD: DONNA AND GRAHAM STREET. Wildlife enthusiasts Donna (57), and Graham Street (61) from Sandown, Isle of Wight, have been caring for sick and injured bats since 1997. During this time they have rescued more than 1,600 bats of various species and have developed extensive knowledge and experience which helps them answer requests from all over the world. They founded the Isle of Wight Bat Hospital after their son found an injured bat at school. The hospital is run from their home and they provide a free, 24-hour rescue service