Sunday Life

Fur play for Rebel at last?
Animal charity considers posthumous award for Ulster canine of courage

By Stephen Breen

04 January 2004
A LEADING UK animal charity may posthumously honour an Ulster canine of courage - for saving his owner's dad from an IRA assassin's bullet.

Sunday Life can reveal that the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) is considering offering a bravery award to David Hamilton's old Alsatian, Rebel.

A letter has also been written to the charity bosses, by Mr Hamilton's local MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, who is also supporting the campaign.

A decision on the medal will be made later this year, when Mr Hamilton's campaign is put before the charity's committee.

David, 49, hopes the Alsatian will be honoured for its courage and selflessness, when IRA gunmen almost killed his father, Johnston, in November 1979.

Rebel lost an eye, and was shot in the stomach, when it pounced on one of the gunmen, after they forced their way into Mr Hamilton's Finaghy home.

Mr Hamilton, who died in 2000, was blasted in the arm and side, before the dog sunk its teeth into one of the masked gunmen.

The terror gang - who had targeted the lorry driver in a case of mistaken identity - panicked, and shot the dog, before fleeing.

Rebel never fully recovered from his injuries, and died in 1981.

Although the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) initially said it supported plans to honour Rebel, the dog has never received any recognition for its bravery.

The PDSA provides bravery awards to pets which are still alive, but it has previously honoured pets after they had died.

The UK-based charity offers a gold medal and the Dickin Medal, to animals which have been "instrumental" in saving human life.

Medals have also been given to animals who work for the police and armed forces.

Mr Hamilton, from Dromore, Co Down, told Sunday Life he was "delighted" that Rebel's case was being considered.

He said: "I'm so pleased the animal charity in England will consider to offer an award to Rebel, because he deserves it.

"I held a meeting with Jeffrey Donaldson this week, and the letter has already been sent to the charity, and I'm feeling very positive about their response.

"Rebel saved my father's life, and later died because he never fully recovered from the injuries he received from the gunman's bullets."

A PDSA spokeswoman said: "Each story is looked at on individual merit, and Rebel's case will go before the board.

"Posthumous medals have been awarded in the past, and the charity will be happy to listen to Mr Hamilton."


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