When Jonny Justice was rescued in 2007 from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier forced to fight had likely had no positive interactions with people or other dogs during his short lifetime.
At the time, Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle said Jonny and the other rescued dogs would never be suitable as pets and should all be euthanized.
These non-profit organizations took in the dogs, rehabilitated them and found loving forever homes in which many of these “unadoptable” survivors thrived.
Just one year after he was rescued from Vick’s house of horrors, Jonny Justice became a therapy dog. His pet parents, Cris Cohen and Jennifer Long of San Francisco, had noticed how well he got along with children.
Since 2008, Jonny has been visiting terminally ill children receiving medical treatment, providing them with love and support (and probably lots of soothing Staffie smooches). Jonny has also helped improve literacy by participating in programs in which kids practice reading aloud to him.
In honor of Jonny’s service, this year the ASPCA is awarding him with its highest accolade: Dog of the Year. Jonny will receive the award tomorrow at a luncheon in New York City.
The annual ASPCA Humane Awards recognize animal heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts as well as people who have shown great commitment to animal welfare during the previous year.
“The 2014 Humane Awards winners represent stories of tremendous courage and determination, but also remind us how important animals are to our lives, and the care and protection we can give them in return,” said ASPCA President and CEO Matthew Bershadker in a press release.
“We are proud to honor these winners, and hope their journeys inspire more humane action across the country.”
This isn’t the first honor bestowed upon Jonny. In 2012 he was named the grand prize winner and Most Beautiful Dog in a Facebook photo contest held by stuffed-animal manufacturer GUND.
One of the prizes? GUND created a limited-edition plush toy in his likeness.
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Photos via Facebook