Asia-Pacific

Australian sniffer dog given Purple Cross bravery award

Black labrador retriever Sarbi with handler
Image caption Sarbi is only the second recipient of the Purple Cross for animal bravery

A sniffer dog found after 13 months missing in Afghanistan has been given Australia's highest animal bravery award, the Purple Cross.

Sarbi, a black labrador retriever, went missing after a Taliban ambush on her unit in Uruzgan province left nine wounded including her handler.

The RSPCA's national president Lynne Bradshaw praised her "incredible resilience and strength".

She is only the second animal to receive the honour.

Sarbi had been detecting roadside bombs with the Australian Special Forces. And after the ambush several attempts were made to find her before she was finally declared missing in action.

Hero's welcome

But, after almost 14 months, she was spotted in the care of a local Afghan man by a US soldier at a remote patrol base.

When she was returned to her base she was greeted by then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and former US military commander Gen Stanley McChrystal.

In 2009, Sarbi was flown home to Canberra to a hero's welcome.

Awarding her the Purple Cross, Mrs Bradshaw said that "it recognises the deeds of animals that have shown outstanding service to humans, particularly if they've shown exceptional courage".

The only previous recipient of the award was a donkey called Murphy, who carried wounded from the battlefield in Gallipoli during World War I.

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