RSPCA Purple Cross Award
RSPCA Purple Cross Award
The Purple Cross Award was established in 1993 to recognise the deeds of animals that have shown outstanding bravery and fortitude in the service of humans.
The bravery award was named in honour of the Purple Cross Society, which was established soon after the outbreak of the First World War. The Society raised funds for the supply of gear and veterinary treatment for the Light House Brigade. In 1971 the Purple Cross Society was disbanded and the RSPCA in Victoria was charged with preserving and displaying its flag, which is now preserved in a glass case at RSPCA Victoria’s headquarters.
So, as a tribute to the memory of all of Australia’s war horses, RSPCA Australia’s highest award for animals is known as the Purple Cross Award.
To be considered for receipt of a Purple Cross Award an animal must do something of a quite exceptional nature to the benefit of a human.
Recipients receive a distinctive purple cross medallion and a certificate to acknowledge their remarkable behaviour.
Recipients of the Purple Cross Award
|25 September 1996||Fizo|
|19 May 1997||Simpson’s Donkey ‘Murphy’|
|28 October 1997||Boots|
|19 November 1997||Anzac (‘Zac’)|
|19 November 1997||Rockie|
|30 November 1997||‘Wee Jock’, The Pikeman’s Dog|
|19 March 2008||Tank & Muck|
|5 April 2011||Sarbi|
Silky Terrier Fizo was nine years old when he became Australia’s first recipient of RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award on 25 September 1996.
Fizo received the award after saving four young children from a brown snake Fizo - who, it is believed, had never seen a snake before - placed himself in harm’s way when a snake was within striking range and threatening four young children.
Having been bitten several times by the snake, Fizo collapsed shortly after the conflict and was rushed to his vet. After receiving a venom antidote and spending several days in intensive care, Fizo regained consciousness, though it was a further six months of recovery before he was pronounced to be in good health.
Fizo was given the award for showing exceptional courage in saving human lives.
Simpson’s Donkey ‘Murphy’
The courage in the face of conflict that was shown by Murphy and all Simpson’s other donkeys was recognised when the RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award was awarded posthumously by then Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Tim Fischer.
In a ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial on 19 May 1997, a mascot donkey named Simpson received the award on behalf of Murphy and all the donkeys used by John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Gallipoli during the First World War.
A stretcher bearer with the ANZACs, John Simpson worked with the donkeys to carry wounded soldiers from the front line to the beach for evacuation. He continued this work for three and a half weeks until he was killed during the third attack on Anzac Cove.
It’s the natural instinct of a donkey to stand motionless when frightened; however, Simpson’s donkeys toiled under heavy and continual fire at Gallipoli. This exceptional performance is likely helped to save many lives.
Kelpie crossbreed Boots was two years old when he was awarded the RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award on 28 October 1997, at the Roseneath Nursing Home in NSW where his owner is resident.
On 1 April 1997, Boots’ owner suffered a heart attack at his home. He managed to write a message on a piece of paper, and tucked it under Boots’ collar before collapsing in his front yard.
After returning to his owner’s side twice, Boots found his way into a garden three kilometres away, where the note was discovered by the owner of the house, who then alerted the police.
Boots’ actions were especially remarkable, as they were quite out of character. Boots was an extremely active and adventurous dog. Normally, if he managed to escape from his yard, Boots would head for the hills and only return when he was found.
By the time the police arrived, a passer-by who saw Boots’ owner lying in the yard had also called an ambulance - which arrived within only minutes of the police. So both police and ambulance officers were convinced Boots was instrumental in getting help for his owner.
A profoundly deaf four-year-old Australian Cattle Dog named Anzac was bestowed with the RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award on 19 November 1997 by then NSW Premier, Bob Carr.
The award was presented at a special ceremony at Parliament House in Sydney, where the House’s strict policy of ‘no animals allowed’ was waived so Anzac could mingle with the dignitaries.
Anzac showed exceptional courage in risking death by burning or smoke inhalation to warn his owner that the house was on fire.
Despite being trained to never go into the bedroom, Anzac almost knocked the bedroom door down in his effort to alert his owner to the danger. Therefore, he risked not only his own safety, but also a reprimand, in order to save his owner’s life.
As a result, both the owner and Anzac escaped the fire unharmed.
A four-year-old English Bull Terrier named Rockie became the fifth recipient of the RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award at a ceremony at Parliament House in Sydney on 19 November 1997.
Rockie received the award from then NSW Premier Bob Carr, in recognition of the risk she took and the bravery she showed in saving her owner from a burning building.
Rockie woke her owner by barking and jumping against the closed door of her bedroom, while flames lurked dangerously nearby.
Rockie then dragged her owner, who was by then semi-conscious from smoke inhalation, from the back door of her burning home to safety.
Rockie’s remarkable behaviour and exceptional courage saved her owner’s life. Without Rockie’s help, her owner could have been dead within minutes.
‘Wee Jock’, The Pikeman’s Dog
The RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award was presented posthumously to Wee Jock, ‘The Pikeman’s Dog’, at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery on 30 November 1997.
Wee Jock was a little terrier who showed great devotion and bravery at the death of his master at the Eureka Stockade on 3rd December 1854. ‘The Pikeman’ was an Irish Digger who- armed with a pike – died defending the flag in the battle of the Eureka Stockade rebellion. Wee Jock guarded his body throughout the hours it lay unclaimed at the battlefield, and later accompanied it on the death cart as the remaining bodies were transferred to the cemetery.
Fittingly, the Purple Cross Award ceremony took place in front of the original Eureka Flag. Detective Sergeant Peter Lalor, the great-great-grandson of Peter Lalor, who was the leader of the diggers at Eureka Stockade, accepted the award on behalf of the Eureka Trust.
Tank & Muck
On 19 March 2008, a Rottweiler crossbreed named Tank and his best mate, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier crossbreed named Muck, jointly received the RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award after saving the life of a toddler on a neighbouring property in Mackay, Queensland.
When two-year-old Max Hillier wandered into a dam, around 300 metres from his family home, it is believed the two dogs saved his life by dragging him from the water (as indicated by drag marks at the scene and marks on the little boys back and arms).
Tank and Muck then alerted neighbours by barking frantically at the scene. When help arrived, they discovered Tank guarding the toddler, and Muck prowling between Max and the water’s edge as if to prevent the toddler from re-entering the dam.
On 5 April 2011, a black Labrador Retriever name Sarbi became the ninth animal to receive the RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award, in a presentation at the Australian War Memorial.
An Australian Special Forces Explosive Detections dog working in Afghanistan, Sarbi was declared missing in action in September 2008 following a battle with the Taliban, which left nine soldiers wounded, including her handler ‘Sergeant D’.
This was the same battle in which Lance Corporal Mark Donaldson earned the Victoria Cross.
Sarbi was missing for 13 months before she was reunited with her handler after she was spotted wandering with an Afghan man in north-eastern Oruzgan Province and was subsequently identified by her microchip.
During her time alone in Afghanistan, Sarbi showed an incredible resilience and strength. And it is her courage and her unquestioning, unwavering service to her human companions that has seen her recognised with the Purple Cross Award.