America's top therapy dog, a pit bull mix named Susie from High Point, North Carolina who overcame a terrible ordeal but went on to bring hope to both people and animals, has been named this year’s “American Hero Dog” at the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.

Susie was only a puppy when her owner beat her savagely and set her on fire, leaving her for dead in a local park in Greensboro, North Carolina. After being rescued by a local animal shelter and nursed back to health, she was adopted by Donna Lawrence, who had been the victim of a terrible dog attack that nearly killed her and left her without the ability to have children. Together, they helped each other heal from their physical and emotional wounds, triumphing over pain and fear to become voices for abused animals and helping pass “Susie’s Law” in North Carolina, which calls for harsher penalties for convicted animal abusers. Susie became the subject of the movie, “Susie’s Hope,” and working side by side, Donna and Susie continue to make the world a better place for others by visiting hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to inspire people never to give up. This year’s therapy dog category sponsor, as well as the campaign’s online sponsor, is the leading animal health company, Zoetis.

The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America’s most courageous canines were hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel by television and film star James Denton and model and animal advocate Beth Stern, accompanied by a galaxy of stars and presenters including Bruce Boxleitner, Lacey Chabert, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Cristina Ferrare, Lori Loughlin, Bailee Madison, Kellie Martin, Marlee Matlin, Brandon McMillan, Larry Miller, Barbara Niven, Pauley Perrette, Charlotte Ross, Mark Steines, Victoria Stilwell, and more.

Wilson Phillips provided the lead musical performances, which brought down the house. Before the show, singer and Billboard recording artist Shara Strand treated the audience to songs from her new hit album, “RSVP,” and the Harry Kim quintet entertained guests during the Red Carpet, silent auction and gala dinner.

Guests were also treated to a Hero Dog Art Show, featuring art works about dogs sent in by children across the country as part of a humane education initiative with Todd Kessler, co-creator of the wildly successful "Blue's Clues" television program and author of the innovative new children's book "The Good Dog."

The Hero Dog Awards were created to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people and recognize extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs.  The program aired as part of Hallmark Channel’s Pet Project, the network’s cross-platform advocacy campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives.

During a nationwide search, 135 dogs from all across the country were nominated and more than one and a half million votes were cast by the American public, culminating in the selection of eight extraordinary canine finalists.

“The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our ‘best friends’ – ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association. “These courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. Choosing a top dog is difficult because they are all so terrific, but we are proud to announce Susie as the top American Hero Dog for 2014. We hope that Susie’s story will inspire people to realize healing power of the human-animal bond.”