Stella, a Staffordshire bull terrier from Gloucestershire, has taken home The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award 2023 after an illustrious career as a police dog.
Nine-year-old Stella was recognised for her extraordinary work, having served as a drugs, cash and firearms recovery dog for Gloucestershire Constabulary for eight-and-a-half years.
She began life as an RSPCA rescue but overcame her difficult start, becoming the first Staffordshire bull terrier in the UK to be enlisted as a police dog in 2014. Working alongside her owner, PC Claire Todd, Stella has discovered weapons, drugs and cash, helping to bring criminals to justice, with the pair also helping people overcome their fear of dogs by visiting schools and doing talks in the community.
One of only five hero dogs shortlisted by a panel of judges from The Kennel Club, Stella won the nation's hearts in the public vote, with Kay Burley announcing her as the winner at Crufts in Birmingham on Sunday 12 March 2023.
Stella and her owner were presented with an award and a cheque for £5,000 from The Kennel Club Charitable Trust to recognise their incredible achievements.
Todd said: 'It is just incredible, I’m speechless. Really it is amazing and we are so grateful for everyone that has voted. All the dogs are such worthy winners so we are over the moon!
'Stella is so special because she is a rescue dog and also the first Staffordshire bull terrier in the country to be a police dog and she has been worth her weight in gold to me.
'It’s brilliant the work police dogs do, they don’t realise how important their job is, but to us it is invaluable. The police dogs are incredible and do such an incredible job! I was holding back the tears, I didn’t expect to win!'
Crufts show manager, Vanessa McAlpine, added: 'Many congratulations to Stella and Claire on winning this year’s Hero Dog Award. Their story is truly inspirational and they are so deserving of this award.
'All the finalists perfectly demonstrated not only the incredible bond they share, but also the positive impact dogs have on all our lives. All the dogs and owners have transformed each other's lives for the better and we thank them all for sharing their stories with us. They are all heroes.'