Tributes are being paid to animal lover and TV personality Paul O’Grady, who died yesterday (March 28) at the age of 67.
As well as a long and successful TV and radio career initially as his alter ego Lily Savage and then in his own right, O’Grady was a high-profile pet lover and campaigner for animal rights. The former social worker performed comedy in pubs and working men’s clubs before graduating to present popular TV programmes including Blankety Blank, Blind Date and Saturday Night Line-up. In 2012, O’Grady helped to launch the Bafta-nominated ITV series For The Love of Dogs featuring the work of the Battersea animal rescue centre, for which he later became an ambassador.
It was during the filming of the first series that Paul rehomed the first of his own Battersea rescues in Eddie, a Chihuahua Jack Russell cross puppy. Eddie was later joined on Paul’s Kent farm by Boycie, a Shih-tzu in 2014; Conchita, a Maltese in 2015; Arfur, a Mongrel puppy in 2017; Nancy, a Mongrel puppy in 2020; and Sausage, a Wire-haired Dachshund in 2021.
Battersea paid tribute to O’Grady, calling him “a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart”.
Battersea chief executive Peter Laurie said: “To many, Paul O’Grady was the immensely popular TV and radio presenter and comedian who lit up their screens with his razor-sharp humour and perpetual generosity and warmth. Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres. Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.
“Paul had an extremely hands on approach as a Battersea Ambassador and has been fundamental in helping our charity to communicate important campaign messages. He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life. He will be dearly missed.”
Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, also paid tribute. He said: “Paul O’Grady’s love for animals and the incredible way he told their stories inspired countless families to re-home rescue pets and give them a second chance of happiness.
“His tireless campaigning saw Paul recognised with an RSPCA Animal Hero Award for his outstanding contribution to animal welfare, while he once adopted a little lamb Winston from us who had been rescued from a wheelie bin.
“The thoughts of all at the RSPCA are with his loved ones and our friends at Battersea at this difficult and sad time.”
Retailer Jollyes joined the chorus of those mourning his passing. In a tweet, the retailer said: “just like every animal lover in Britain, we want to say thank you for everything you did for pets that needed a little love.”