Four-legged diggers are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
A Queensland Firearms and Explosive Detection Dog Handler has established a non- profit charity that recognises the service of four-legged diggers.
Nigel Allsopp, who works with the Explosive Ordnance Response Team, is the founder and director of the Australia War Animal Memorial Organisation, an organisation that gives animals who served in the war a ‘voice’ through commemorative war memorials.
The Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation works with the federal and state government to erect memorials for our fallen four-legged heroes.
Nigel says he set up the organisation because he wants to recognise the deeds and services of animals in the war.
“There were about eight million animals killed during World War I, and they get no recognition for that,” he says.
“When I was out in the field, there was no one else in front of me protecting me, except my dog.”
“I want to honour the deeds and sacrifices of war animals, because they deserve something too, and being that it’s the centenary of World War I it’s the perfect time.”
Nigel first realised the enormity of work undertaken by animals — including dogs, pigeons, donkeys, mules, camels and horses — in the military when he worked as a dog handler with the New Zealand and Australian Defence Forces.
“This in no way overshadows the human sacrifices, but animals do play a huge role,” he says. “They have no voice, they don’t get rewards or medals and until recently they weren’t even brought home.”
Nigel says that up until 1993, animals were not brought back home to Australia when the war was over.
“Many animals were shot and killed or given to the military over in other countries, because they weren’t allowed back into Australia,” he says.
“Now we have quarantine to be able to have the animals brought back.”
Nigel has always been an animal lover and has a rather extensive résumé to prove it.
In his early years he trained elephants at Auckland Zoo and later got to work with dogs, mules, donkeys, rhinos, cheetahs, sea lions and polar bears. He also remembers training a dog to get a beer for its quadriplegic owner.
Nigel was recently awarded the Queensland Police Credit Union’s Everyday Heroes Award for his work. He says he was honoured to be nominated, but never thought he’d win.
“I would give it (the award) to the other finalists, for their fantastic work they’ve done, because when I heard what they were up for I got a tear in my eye,” he says.
“I feel very humbled to be named alongside them.”
The Australian Animal Memorial Organisation has created the Purple Poppy to raise funds for animal monuments and Nigel hopes it will help the organisation put an animal war memorial in every state in Australia.
“In future, we would like to establish a full scale bronze monument in Toowoomba of war animals with a soldier,” he says.
“We are also looking at establishing an animal war memorial at Kokoda, and we’ve been asked to put one in at Anzac Cove.”
For more information about Nigel’s work visit www.awamo.org.au