Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has paid tribute to Paul O’Grady as a “devoted animal lover” and a “champion for the underdog” following his death.
The TV star had close ties to the organisation, which praised his “razor-sharp humour and perpetual generosity and warmth”.
O’Grady died unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 67, his partner Andre Portasio said.
The TV and radio presenter became an ambassador for Battersea in 2012, following the success of ITV’s multi-award-winning For The Love Of Dogs, which was filmed at the home.
He presented the show for eleven series, during which time he laid bare his “passion for all things dog”, the charity said.
Last year O’Grady was joined by the Queen Consort in a special one-off episode of the programme to mark 160 years of the organisation.
In a statement shared with the PA news agency, Battersea chief executive Peter Laurie said the home was “joining the nation” in mourning the loss of O’Grady, who helped raise its profile to millions around the world.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
He continued: “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.”
O’Grady was given a special recognition award at the 2018 National Television Awards for the impact For The Love Of Dogs had on helping find homes for rescue animals nationwide.
During an interview during the first series in September 2012, he said it was “hand on heart… one of the nicest jobs I’ve ever had” and praised the home as “a magical place”.
Ali Taylor, who appeared alongside O’Grady in the series, said the presenter met “hundreds if not thousands” of dogs during his time working with Battersea but never lost his “infectious enthusiasm and interest in getting to know them all individually”.
O’Grady also personally rehomed several dogs at his Kent farmhouse.
During the first series of For The Love Of Dogs he took home Eddie, a Chihuahua Jack Russell-cross puppy.
Eddie was joined by Boycie, a shih-tzu in 2014, Conchita, a Maltese in 2015, Arfur, a mongrel puppy in 2017, Nancy, another mongrel puppy in 2020, and Sausage, a wire-haired dachshund in 2021.
Mr Laurie added, “Paul loved Battersea so much and we cannot thank him enough for everything he did for our charity and for rescue animals worldwide.
“We will forever be indebted to him for his endless generosity and support.”
O’Grady’s contribution to animal welfare was also recognised with an RSPCA Animal Hero Award.
Chief executive Chris Sherwood 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.”