(DOGS/ANIMAL HEROES) Pit bulls certainly have a bad rap, and hopefully this enlightening news will help change that! The Humane Association announced their 2013 American Hero Dog awards, and the winner is….Elle! The five-year-old pit earned the honor through her work as a therapy dog. So while other dogs are whiling away their days fetching sticks and getting belly rubs (both perfectly acceptable pastimes), she’s helping children become better readers. Leah Brewer, Elle’s human-partner, started “Tail Wagging Tales,” a program where elementary students in North Carolina sit with Elle and read out loud to help improve their reading skills and build confidence. This also includes plenty of kid-cuddling on Elle’s part—something many parents would never allow because they consider pit bulls to be aggressive and dangerous. But the pits aren’t the dangerous ones—instead it’s their “guardians” who abuse and neglect these amazing companion animals. Pit bulls are powerful dogs and a responsibility, but as long as they’re given love and training they can be truly wonderful pets—Elle being the perfect example! Read on for more on Elle’s story and watch her accept her trophy at “The Hero Dog Awards” on October 30th! — Global Animal

Elle's win as the 2013 American Hero Dog defies misconceptions about pit bulls. Photo Credit: Vimeo
Elle’s win as the 2013 American Hero Dog defies misconceptions about pit bulls. Photo Credit: Vimeo

Today, Amy Eley

Pit bulls have a reputation for being aggressive, but it’s not unusual to find Elle, a 5-year-old pit bull, cuddling up to elementary school children for story time.

Elle is the Humane Association's winner of the 2013 American Hero Dog for her work in a therapy dog reading program called "Tail Wagging Tales" which helps children in North Carolina enjoy books and improve their reading skills. Photo credit: American Humane Association
Elle is the Humane Association’s winner of the 2013 American Hero Dog for her work in a therapy dog reading program called “Tail Wagging Tales” which helps children in North Carolina enjoy books and improve their reading skills. Photo credit: American Humane Association

In fact, she does it regularly. Elle is a therapy dog at an elementary and a middle school in North Carolina. With help from her owner, Leah Brewer, 42, Elle started a reading program called “Tail Wagging Tales” to help students practice reading and strengthen confidence.

Students at Vaughan Elementary in Macon, N.C. and Chaloner Middle School in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., take turns sitting with Elle and reading out loud to her for 20 minutes.

“She provides confidence for students and a comforting ear,” Brewer told TODAY.com. (No word yet on what her favorite book is.)

On Saturday, Elle’s efforts earned her the honor of being named the 2013 American Hero Dog by the American Humane Association, beating out other finalists who had their own tales of heroism — like Carlos, an explosive detector dog (EDD) who worked in Iraq and Afghanistan, and John D, a rescue dog who uses his scenting capabilities to detect cancer in patients.

“The point of the award show is to celebrate these dogs who really work and perform service to humans,” Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association, told TODAY.com.

Elle and the other finalists were flown in style to Los Angeles alongside their owners to attend the star-studded awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Her win is a sign that misconceptions about pit bulls might be changing.

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“The dog community is trying to grapple with issues around what to do with breeds that have some bad reputations, “ said Ganzert. “This is a fantastic awakening to see a pit bull win.”

The Humane Association awarded Elle the top honor after combining more than 1 million public votes with those from a panel of animal activists and celebrity judges that included Kristin Chenoweth, Candy Spelling and Miranda Lambert. Other finalists included:

  • Cassidy, a three-legged dog who visits rehabilitation centers to comfort children with disabilities.
  • Jingles, a guide dog who brings joy, exuberance and safe travels to her disabled owner.
  • Lola, a rescued guide dog who connects her deaf owner to the surrounding world.
  • K9 Lakota, who was forced into retirement after he and his accompanying officer were injured in a car accident. His story is now used to help change dog protection laws for police dogs.
  • SD Bronx, who helps his 14-year-old owner battle seizures.

Saturday night’s award show was hosted by actor Joey Lawrence. The “Hero Dog Awards” will air in a 90-minute special on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 30.

More Today: http://www.today.com/pets/bully-her-elle-pit-bull-2013-american-hero-dog-8C11332418

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