A California cat who was caught on camera chasing off a dog who was attacking her young owner last year is the first non-canine recipient of a local shelter's "Hero Dog" award.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles presented its 33rd annual
National Hero Dog Award to Tara, a 7-year-old tabby, Friday.
Tara gained international celebrity status in May 2014 after security camera footage caught her springing into action to rescue her 6-year-old owner, Jeremy Triantafilo, from an attack by a neighbor's dog in the driveway of his Bakersfield home.
Video uploaded by the boy's father to YouTube shows Tara body-slamming the dog and chasing it off the property after it bit the child’s leg and attempted to drag him down the driveway.
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The boy received eight stitches as a result of the attack and his mother, Erica Triantafilo, was also bitten. The dog, a chow-mix named Scrappy, was later euthanized.
The spcaLA considers nominations of heroic pets from around the country each year, and despite not being a dog, Tara’s act of bravery made her a clear winner, said spcaLA president Madeline Bernstein.
"Most species protect their own, so to cross species lines is unusual," Bernstein said. "You won’t see a cat or dog risk their lives like this unless it's to protect something they care about."
Though awarding a cat an honor dedicated to heroic dogs may seem a bit unusual, Bernstein said that Tara's win was applauded by many, and that the award ultimately serves to promote pet adoptions and the humane treatment of animals.
"Any dog or cat that you adopt from any shelter across the country might be a hero if you love him or her," said Bernstein. "The human-animal bond is a really strong thing and people should not underestimate that."