SEPTEMBER 9/04, TORONTO - Dante, a dog with a big heart has been credited by police as befriending a man who allegedly set out to embark on a widespread killing spree. The friendly, four and one half year old neutered male Part Husky/Australian Shepherd is being honoured as the first ever recipient of the coveted Animal Heroes Award at a special ceremony by The Humane Society of Canada, according to Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. The charity will also be paying special tribute to Elvis a five year old neutered male Border Collie and Cisco, a four year old neutered male Australian Shepherd, two more lovable dogs who were in the area at the time.

 

In late June, a troubled 44 year man, later identified as James Paul Stanson, was driving around the Beaches area in the east of Toronto with an arsenal of weapons in his vehicle, including a rifles with a telescopic scope, a 12-gauge shotgun, a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, a machete, a throwing knife, camouflage ski mask, black leather gloves and over 6,296 rounds of ammunition.

 

Stanson's alleged mass murder plan was derailed by an encounter with a friendly, lovable dog named Dante who was out for an afternoon stroll with his owner, Kristina Kyser and her six week old baby: "Dante ran up to a large man wearing a windbreaker, who began petting him. I could tell right away that the man obviously liked dogs. I went into shock when I saw his sketch in the papers afterwards and realized who the man was" said Kyser.
Kristina Kyser, a PhD student from the University of Toronto, and her husband, lawyer and their two small children, share their home with three other pets. A dog named Java and two cats named Kensho and Sutra. Like Dante all of their animals have been spayed or neutered and were adopted from local humane societies and pounds.

Dragana and Peter Brighton share their home with Elvis, and in Dragana's words: "Awareness that my dog may have helped someone to get in touch with his humanity, helped me realize that a loving animal is capable of great things, even when he/she doesn't know it. He has touched the lives of many people, they will all be proud of him receiving this award." Within the next several weeks, Elvis will graduate as a specially trained pet therapy dog and will soon bring a smile to many more people's faces.

Cisco, a rescue dog originally from California, now makes his home with Nina Otulakowski, who said: "I thank the gods that we are blessed with our friendly companions … they are angels in disguise, these dogs who improve our lives. Cisco is a friendly, hearty, outgoing kind of dog, who always looks as if he's grinning. He's a sucker for attention and loves to say hello to everyone."

When he turned himself into police later that afternoon, Stanson told the officers that his encounter with this friendly dog made him have second thoughts about his alleged plan. "It basically could have gone either way," said Detective Nick Ashley.

"Created especially for The Humane Society of Canada, Dante, Elvis and Cisco will be receiving a beautiful pewter medal engraved with his name surrounded by a circle of animals and emblazoned with the legend: Animal Heroes. Representing the silver and blue colours of our charity's identity, and our mission, "protecting animals and the earth", each soft gray medal is individually hand cast by Canadian artist, Sarah Pelaic, and is adorned with a blue ribbon. Animal Heroes recognizes outstanding acts of courage and sacrifice by animals on behalf of other animals and people," explained Michael O'Sullivan, the charity's Executive Director, who has lived in the Beaches for over 25 years. These coveted awards are not necessarily given out each year in all categories and there can be only 100 living recipients at any one time.

"There is no doubt in my mind at all, that the overall atmosphere of friendly dogs and people in the Beaches helped save the day, and we will also be posting a special certificate recognizing all of the dogs living in the Beaches," said O'Sullivan. Located on the beach at the foot of Silverbirch Avenue the certificate will be mounted in a case that serves as a dog bulletin board for the community.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael 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.

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