San Diego Humane Society Announces Winners of the First Annual “Animal Compassion Awards”

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San Diego Award Honors Extraordinary and Inspiring Relationships Between People and Pets

“We live in one of the pet-friendliest cities in the nation, and what better reason to honor the people in our community who have inspired the special and unique bond that we share with animals?” - Dr. Gary Weitzman, president, San Diego Humane Society

The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA’s first annual “Animal Compassion Awards” recognize and pay tribute to the extraordinary animals and animal lovers throughout San Diego County. Nominations were collected in three categories, Human-Animal Bond, Humane Hero and Pet-Friendly Destination, and the winner are:
Human-Animal Bond Award: This award recognizes the powerful and unique relationship between humans and animals.

Winner: Judy Fridono and her dog, Ricochet.
Ricochet was born to be a service dog—helping people with disabilities. However, as she grew…so did her instinct for chasing birds, which forced her to find a new path. Ricochet’s mom, Judy, was disappointed at first, but once she let go of her expectations, Ricochet became who she was always meant to be. One day at the beach, Ricochet jumped onto a surfboard with a 14-year old boy named Patrick. Patrick had been hit by a car -- which left him a quadriplegic. That’s when Judy realized Ricochet’s true purpose. She’s the only dog in the world who surfs with people with disabilities. Judy says, “Once I let go of my expectations of what I wanted...everything changed. It really taught me to just allow anyone – animals, humans, kids, husbands – to be who they truly are and it could be magical.” See a video of Judy and Ricochet’s story here:

Humane Hero Award: This award recognizes an individual, business or group that goes above and beyond to help animals.

Winner: Officer Melissa Prettyman, County of San Diego’s Department of Animal Services
Someone who has gone above and beyond as a hero to the animals is Officer Melissa Prettyman, who has come to the rescue more than once when a pet was in danger. She’s rescued animals out of a burning home, before the family was even aware of the fire. Another rescue involved the team effort of Officer Prettyman and her partner -- saving a stray dog from drowning off the Mission Beach Jetty. Officer Prettyman says, “We deal with a lot of different situations every day. It can be anywhere from just educating a pet owner or going out and saving a dog in the water or whatever it may be – but it’s definitely a team effort. I feel if I can at least help one person or one animal in any way possible...then I know I’ve done my job.” See a video of Melissa’s story here:

Pet-Friendly Destination Award: This award recognizes a local business that promotes and supports an extraordinary pet-friendly environment.

Winner: Gina Champion-Cain, Owner, The Patio Restaurant and LUV San Diego Surf
A large part of makes San Diego a “pet-friendly” community is due to businesses that foster an environment for people to be with their pets. No one understands the importance of involving pets in our day-to-day lives better than Gina Champion-Cain – owner of several pet-friendly businesses in San Diego...From beach rentals in Mission Beach to ‘The Patio’ on Lamont Street. Gina was inspired to start these “pet-friendly businesses” after difficulties booking vacations to other cities with her own pets. Gina says, “My pets are the loves of my life, there’s no way I could have a business that wouldn’t be pet-friendly.” See a video of Gina’s story here:

“We live in one of the pet-friendliest cities in the nation, and what better reason to honor the people in our community who have inspired the special and unique bond that we share with animals?” said Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA. “We see extraordinary examples everyday of people who are bettering animal welfare in San Diego and making this a more compassionate society for people and animals. Being able to recognize those contributions is what inspired the idea behind the Animal Compassion Awards. We intend to present this award every year so we can make San Diego the best place in the world to have an animal…or to be one.”

For more information about the Animal Compassion Awards, please visit: Submissions for the 2014 Compassion Awards will be accepted later this year!

About the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA
Serving San Diego County since 1880, the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA’s scope of social responsibility goes beyond adopting animals. The Humane Society offers San Diegans a wide range of programs and services that strengthen the human-animal bond, prevent cruelty/neglect, provide medical care and educate the community on the humane treatment of animals.

As one of San Diego’s oldest nonprofit organizations, the Humane Society has campuses in both San Diego and Oceanside and is supported solely through contributions, grants, bequests, investments, proceeds from the Muttique retail store, and small fees for services. For more information or to see current animals available for adoption, please visit

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Kelli Herwehe
San Diego Humane Society
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