A Christchurch police dog shot dead while on duty has been awarded an international honour dubbed the ''animals' George Cross''.
The PDSA Gold Medal, established in 2001, honours outstanding animal bravery or exceptional devotion to duty outside of military conflict.
German shepherd Gage was killed during a drug raid in Christchurch in 2010.
His handler, Senior Constable Bruce Lamb, was emotional today during the ceremony commemorating his fallen canine partner.
He thanked the PDSA for honouring Gage, but saved his final thanks for the dog. ''Without him I simply wouldn't be here."
On July 13, 2010, police were conducting a routine drug raid in Phillipstown when Lamb was shot in the jaw by Christopher Graham Smith.
Gage jumped across Lamb to engage with the offender and was fatally shot by Smith.
District commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said Gage paid the ultimate sacrifice.
''If it wasn't for Gage, I have no doubt it would have ended up worse,'' he said.
Today's ceremony was attended by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, who presented the award, which was accepted by Lamb on behalf of Gage.
Mateparae said Gage's actions ''typified an unwavering bond'' between police dogs and their handlers.
Acting Commissioner Viv Rickard said Mateparae's attendance gave the ''desired kudos'' to Gage's sacrifice, without which ''we could have been looking at another police officer killed on duty''.
Gage is the second New Zealand dog to be awarded the PDSA medal, and the 22rd internationally. He is one of 23 police dogs killed on duty in New Zealand.
George, a jack russell terrier from Taranaki, received the award posthumously in 2009 for protecting five children from being attacked by pit bulls.
- The Press