Fabienne Paques outside the Royal Palace in Belgium last week. / SUR

ACE founder awarded during Belgium's National Day

Fabienne Paques was nominated at the Be Heroes initiative, which is supported by King Philippe of Belgium, for her work with animals

Tony Bryant

The tireless work of the founder and president of the ACE/SHIN dog shelter in La Cala de Mijas, Fabienne Paques, has received a surprise award for her more than 20 years of service helping unwanted and abandoned dogs and cats in Andalucía. The Belgian animal lover received an official invitation from the Royal Palace to attend the annual military and civilian parades in Brussels marking Belgium's National Day on 21 July.

Fabienne, who said that it was an "understatement to say that the invitation came as something of a surprise", had been nominated as a Hero in connection with the Be Heroes project supported by King Philippe of Belgium, an initiative which honours the vital role that ordinary citizens play in everyday life by selflessly serving their local communities.

Fabienne was nominated for the award by fellow Belgian citizen Chantal, who has supported the refuge for over 15 years.

"She does all this work tirelessly, together with her husband and the motivation of volunteers. I am so pleased that Fabienne has finally received the recognition she deserves," Chantal said.

Since founding the refuge with her husband in Mijas in 1999, Fabienne has saved and rehomed more than 26,000 abandoned and unwanted dogs and cats. Fabienne and her team of devoted volunteers continually fight against the abuse and killing of dogs in Southern Spain.

Fabienne told SUR in English that she was "delighted" to receive the award.

"To be recognised by the king of the country where your roots lie, is a great honour. It is good to receive appreciation for the dogs we have rescued," she said.