The Alabama Animal Hall of Fame (AAHOF), located in Montgomery, Montgomery County, was established in 2003 in conjunction with the Alabama Veterinary Medical Foundation (ALVMF), also established that year. The mission of the foundation is to enhance the wellbeing of animals and the human-animal bond. The AAHOF celebrates this mission by recognizing and honoring animals that have shown extraordinary abilities or remarkable loyalty to their owners. ALVMF is a 501(c)(3) organization funded by donations.
Induction into the AAHOF is for companion or working animals from within the state of Alabama that have demonstrated extraordinary loyalty, courage, service, or intuitive abilities in their relations with humans. Successful nominees demonstrate exceptional ability when compared with similar animals in similar conditions. Documentation attesting to those abilities is necessary, including but not limited to written testimony, media coverage of any type, eyewitness accounts, or documentation from a sponsoring organization. Reasons for nomination vary from single events demonstrating extreme courage or for lifetime achievement. Nominations to the hall can be made by a veterinarian, a client through a veterinarian, the local humane society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or another animal care agency in Alabama, or by one of 15 local constituent veterinary associations across Alabama that are organized under the Alabama VMA.
Nominees are included in a nominee pool for three consecutive years. The AAHOF Committee votes on all nominees each year until they are either voted into the hall or are dropped from consideration after three years. An animal that does not receive enough votes for induction in the three-year period may not be nominated again. Inductees are not limited to dogs and cats; other animals inducted include a chicken, two horses, a squirrel monkey, and a golden eagle. All inductees have amazing stories with honorable accomplishments. For example, 2005 nominee Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey, was inducted for her historic May 28, 1959, flight into space aboard the Jupiter rocket with a rhesus monkey, Miss Able, the first mission for NASA in which mammals returned alive following a flight in space. Tiger, a golden eagle, was also inducted in 2005. She flew over Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn before football games from 2000 to 2006 and in the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Gucci the dog inducted in 2006, suffered terrible abuse as a puppy and wasn't expected to live. However, the resilient little dog survived to create media exposure in newspapers, magazines, radio, and local and national television networks, and is credited with helping bring about stricter animal cruelty laws. In May 2000, six years after Gucci's story became public, the Alabama State Legislature passed a bill making intentional cruelty to domesticated animals a Class C felony, punishable with a prison term of up to 10 years. A poodle named Champ was inducted in 2009 for detecting cancer in his owner twice, first in her breast and later on her cheek. His owner is now cancer free.
Matilda the Chicken also was inducted in 2006. She earned the title "World's Oldest Living Chicken" for reaching the age of 15 or 16. Matilda belonged to magicians Keith and Donna Barton of Bessemer, Jefferson County, and appeared in their magic show for more than a decade. She and the Bartons appeared on The Tonight Show, and Matilda received the Olivia Bearden Award from the Greater Birmingham Humane Society for her service as a goodwill ambassador in the Birmingham area.
Induction ceremonies, which have typically been held each spring, have taken place at venues in Huntsville, Montgomery, and Birmingham. In addition to celebrating the inductees, ceremonies include inspiring key note speakers such as 2006 speaker Michael Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle, who guided him from the 78th floor of the World Trade Center's Tower One to safety during the 9/11 terrorist attack.