10/05/2011 03:35 pm ET | Updated Dec 05, 2011

Hero Dogs

We've always been a family of animal lovers. We've had dogs, birds, rabbits, goldfish and turtles! In fact, I'm only half joking when I say the reason I'm partial to oversized furniture is because I need to make sure there is a place for me to sit at home. At one point, Aaron and I had six dogs and we would all crowd into the same bed at night.

This is why I am so honored to be joining the American Humane Association's Honorary Leadership Committee and to have served as a judge at their inaugural HERO DOG AWARDS this past weekend.

Eighty-two years after the original Rin Tin Tin was denied an Oscar for Best Actor (despite having the majority of votes) due to a change in the voting policies of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, man's best friend is finally getting his due.

It's no surprise that the Hero Dog Awards received over 450 nominations representing every state in the country. The eight finalists from the various fields of canine service included law enforcement, search and rescue, guide dogs, the military and therapy dogs. Each story was truly compelling. I teared up while I was reading their stories of incredible valor. While only one finalist walked away with the title of most heroic, the event was a celebration of all dogs and their extraordinary relationship with mankind.

Established in 1877, the American Humane Association has long been a voice for the most vulnerable -- children and animals. Research has shown there is a direct link between the abuse of animals and children. For nearly 150 years, the organization has raised funds allowing them to spearhead legislation, shape policy and change attitudes that improve the lives of millions of children and animals. I recently sat down with their CEO, Dr. Robin Ganzert and she shared the goals of their Red Star Centennial National Expansion campaign with me.

Originally known as the American Red Star Animal Relief, the program was designed to bring organized aid to sick and injured animals. Today the century-old program is known as the Red Star Animal Emergency Relief. Times have changed but the vision remains the same: implement national emergency plans during disastrous events such as tornadoes and floods that include the safety of family pets and animals in every FEMA region. Increasing Red Star's reach would also allow the American Humane Association to respond to an increased number of puppy mill, animal hoarding and animal cruelty seizures.

Saving animals saves us. By advancing the values of compassion and caring, we can build a more humane nation. I am very much looking forward to the second annual Hero Dog Awards. And I hope the American Humane Association's powerful initiatives thrive for another 150 years.

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