VANCOUVER, JULY 18 /2012 - Under the glare of the lights, with billions of people watching around the world and with every fibre of their Olympic being stretched beyond their limits, there are some members of their cheering section who sit and wait anxiously for their return home.

As the Olympians dig down deep for that final burst of speed, at home they know that no matter what happens, their furred, feathered and even finned f riends will be there for them -- no judgements, just unconditional love and support .  The special bond between Olympians and their pets is best described by superstar tennis ace Venus Williams and her sister Serena who are huge dog lovers. Venus has two Cavalier King Charles spaniels and a Havanese named Harold. "You're out there on your own and you need a friend who's there for you – wins, losses – and who really cares for you ," she said.

"The Greek Pantheon was ruled by a council of twelve great gods known as the Olympians, best known among them were Zeus whose sacred animals were a golden eagle and a wolf. Next came Poseidon , god of the sea, whose own beloved animals included a horse and a dolphin followed by Aprhodite , the godess of love, whose fondness for animals included a turtle dove, a hare and a sparrow. Shrouded in mystery, legend has it that the Greek gods Hercules and his father Zeus founded the first Olympic Games held in Olympia, Greece in 776 BC.  As it was over 2,700 years ago, animals have always been an integral part of the Olympic Games ," says Al Hickey, Western Regional Director for The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).   In ancient times, along with the positive benefits, this also sometimes involved sacrifice and hunting animals.  With the revival of the Olympics in 1896, pigeon shooting, the only Olympic event which ever involved deliberately killing animals, was banned at the 1900 Olympic Games held in Paris.

"At one time or another, Olympic athletes from all walks of life have had companion animals of every shape, size, and colour embracing a proud tradition of loving their pets and standing up for the protection of animals and nature," according to Michael O’Sullivan, HSC Chairman & CEO.  Many of the Olympic Games have also had their own animal mascots, like the ones featured in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.

You can find pictures of today’s Olympic athletes with their animals right here . "Carrying the Olympic torch just in time for the star studded Olympic Games in London, The Humane Society of Canada is launching a special edition of its program, Behind Every Great Star - There’s An Animal , which will profile Olympic athletes and their pets and how they use their voices to speak for animals and the earth,” according to Michael O’Sullivan, Chairman & CEO of The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).  Although there is no formal affiliation with the Olympics http://www.olympic.org/ , O’Sullivan says it will be a great opportunity to showcase athletes and their accomplishments, their BFF animal friends, and their star power to help bring hope to animals.  Olympian boxer Shawn O'Sullivan, himself an animal lover, and Michael's brother, won a silver medal for Canada in the 1984 Olympics.

Follow your favourite Olympic athletes in real time http://www.olympic.org/ and learn about their pets and why protecting animals and nature is so important to them”, asks O’Sullivan. Follow us on www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at:http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280 and at www.humanesociety.com

Conor Dwyer and his pet Julie Zetlin's pet Lauren Cheney and her pets Lolo Jones and her pets Susan francia and her pets Jordyn Wieber and his pets Dana Vollmer and her pets Jonathan Horton and his pets Eric Shanteau and his pets McKayle Maroney and her pets Olympians and animals Jake Dalton and his dog Megan rapinoe and her pets Natalie coughlin and her pets Michael Phelps and his dog Rebecca soni and her pets

Like many other countries, Canadians are a nation of animal lovers , with 6 out of 10 homes sharing their families with animals that walk, swim and fly. Many others at this time in their lives cannot have an animal for one reason or another, however along with their fellow Canadians still care deeply about the protection of animals and nature from harm. If you have ever listened to a contented purr or felt the gentle nudge of a cold nose , then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Caring for animals encourages compassion and makes us better people , “ he says.

In the last century Gandhi said: “The greatest of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” His words and his wisdom still ring true today.

The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC ) works across the street, across Canada and around the world helping people, animals and the environment. And it when it comes to fighting cruelty, we don’t give up. Ever.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan toll free at 1-800-641-KIND or on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com , via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at:http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works across the street, across Canada and around the world helping people, animals and the environment.

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) depends entirely on donations to support our programs to help animals and the environment. All donations are gratefully acknowledged with a receipt for income tax purposes. If you would like to support our educational campaigns that protect animals and the environment please make a donation here . Because when it comes to fighting cruelty and violence, we don’t give up. Ever.

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