WASHINGTON — Citing the universal appeal of the National Fire Protection Association’s mascot Sparky the Fire Dog, the American Humane Association tapped the famous Dalmatian character to be an official “spokesdog” for the annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. Presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and broadcast nationwide on Hallmark Channel, the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards are produced by Emmy award-winning MRB Productions and will take place Oct. 6, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

Sparky was created for the association in 1951 and has been its official mascot of ever since. He is widely recognized as a fire and life safety icon that is beloved by children and adults alike. Millions have learned about fire safety through educational lessons or materials featuring his image. Sparky frequently visits schools and participates in community events to spread fire safety messages, often accompanied by his firefighter friends. In addition to connecting with the public through public service announcements, he plays prominently in Fire Prevention Week campaigns each October. In celebration of Sparky’s 60th birthday last year, author Don Hoffman and illustrator Todd Dakins created “Sparky the Fire Dog,” a picture book that offers an entertaining and educational adventure filled with lessons and fire safety messages for youngsters.

The annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, which draws stars and celebrities (human and canine alike), features awards in eight categories, including law enforcement/arson dogs, service dogs, military dogs, hearing dogs, search and rescue dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, and “emerging hero dogs” (pets and ordinary dogs that do extraordinary things). During a nationwide search hundreds of dogs from all 50 states were nominated. The public can now vote to choose this year’s finalists through Saturday, June 30.

For information about the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, visit herodogawards.org or americanhumane.org.