Hero army dog is awarded animal version of the Victoria Cross 

A heroic army dog who saved countless lives by sniffing out five IED bombs during a raid against the Taliban has been awarded the animal version of the Victoria Cross.

Bass, a Belgian Shepherd who served in the US Marine Corps, has become the 75th animal to win the PDSA's Dickin Medal.

The award was launched by the UK charity in 1943 after its founder, Maria Dickin, realised the amount of lives animals - mostly dogs and carrier pigeons - saved in war.

Bass spent six years in the US Marine Special Operation Command and conducted more than 350 explosive sweeps in 46 missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

Now aged 10 - about 53 in dog years - Bass has retired and lives with his former handler, Staff Sergeant Alex Schnell, in San Antonio, Texas.

Bass was nominated for the award by former US Marine Corps dog handler Chris Willingham.

Jan McLoughlin, the director general of the PDSA, praised Bass for his devotion to duty.

She said: 'Bass displayed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in aiding the success of his team's mission that evening in 2019; his actions undoubtedly prevented additional loss of life.

Bass' life-saving actions on that night, make him a truly deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.

'Whether they are working dogs like Bass, or pets in our homes, animals have a truly unique role in our lives.

'Every day in our Pet Hospitals, PDSA's vets and vet nurses see and protect the incredible bond between pets and their owners, which is why PDSA continues our founder Maria Dickin's mission - to ensure no pet suffers because of their owners financial circumstances and to honour the incredible role they play in our society.

'Bass is a wonderful example of how vital animals are. His exceptional abilities and determination were apparent to all who served with him, and he was a clearly respected member of the team. I am proud to present him with the PDSA Dickin Medal.'

Mr Schnell, said: 'It is truly one of my greatest honours to see Bass awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal.

'Bass is an incredible dog and I hope his story helps to demonstrate just how important animals are to our armed forces, and the key, sometimes life-saving, roles that they play.

'We are all incredibly proud that PDSA has recognised Bass in this way.'

Mr Willingham, who nominated Bass, said: 'Bass and Alex made an incredible team and were amongst the top five per cent of Marines I had the honour of serving with.

'Bass' service and skill demonstrates the finest traditions of K-9 and I am thrilled to see his achievements recognised with the PDSA Dickin Medal.'

During a night-time raid to capture a Taliban bomb-maker in Helmand Province in May 2019, enemy soldiers opened fire and detonated an IED.

In order to avoid a frontal assault against the barricaded enemy position, the team began clearance of a nearby building to allow them to gain a safer vantage point

Bass took the lead in the clearance and immediately identified an IED located adjacent to the doorway of the building.

After finding another entry to the building, Bass continued to sweep the structure and identified four additional IEDs.

The PDSA Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words 'For Gallantry' and 'We Also Serve' all within a laurel wreath.

The Medal has been awarded 75 times to 38 dogs, 32 pigeons, four horses and one cat.