Charity boss and ex-volunteer Rita is top dog!

The chief executive of Sheffield-based national charity Support Dogs has been presented with a Civic Award for her outstanding service to the city.

Rita Howson, who has been involved with the charity for 26 years – starting off as a volunteer, then a dog trainer before becoming the boss – was given the accolade in acknowledgement of her outstanding work in helping members of the local community.

Support Dogs, whose national training centre is based in Brightside, provides and trains assistance dogs for children with autism and adults with epilepsy and physical disabilities, enabling them to lead safer and more independent lives.

Ms Howson was presented with her award by Lord Mayor Anne Murphy in a ceremony on the Mayor’s Parlour.

Support Dogs relies entirely on public donations to fund its three training programmes and on volunteers to help fundraise nationally and locally.

“Rita is proof of the importance of volunteering and the opportunities it presents,” said colleague and fundraising manager at the charity, Danny Anderson.

“She started as a volunteer with Support Dogs in its very early days and is now running the organisation as its chief executive.

“From our humble beginnings 26 years ago, Support Dogs is now a real force for good in helping people with serious medical conditions. And for this fantastic achievement Rita deserves much of the credit.”

Support Dogs always looking for more people to help with its events and fundraising. For more information call Sarah Cooper on 0114 261 7800 or email