Burt Ward, Robin from TV’s ‘Batman,’ receives presidential honor for rescuing over 15,500 pets

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes Burt Ward's pet rescue mission (Part 1)

Burt Ward famously played the Robin to Adam West’s Batman in the classic 1960s TV series “Batman.”

Actors Adam West, left, and Burt Ward dresses as their characters (Zappp!) "Batman" and (Powww!) "Robin," pause during an appearance January 27, 1989 at the "World of Wheels" custom car show, Sunday in Chicago.(Associated Press/Mark Elias)

Now, Ward is being honored for rescuing more than just Gotham City.

“I was a ‘caped crusader’ and now I’m the canine and cat and kitten crusader,” Ward told WTOP. “Thirty years ago when my wife and I moved to the Inland Empire an hour east of Los Angeles, we got a beautiful Great Dane. … We started rescuing Great Danes in August 1994, and by the end of the month, we had 102 in our house! … We’ve been saving not just Great Danes, but St. Bernards, Chihuahuas, Yorkies, 45 different breeds, more than 15,500 saved.”

This spring, Ward received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award in a letter from President Joe Biden reading, “I congratulate you on taking it upon yourself to contribute to the public good, and I’m proud to present you with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of your 4,016 hours of service to this great nation.”

The special ceremony was hosted by the Royal Society of Saint George in Santa Monica, California on April 28. Not only was Ward presented the prize from the White House, he and his wife, Tracy, also received the United Nations Association of the United States of America’s (UNA-USA) Humanitarian Award for their animal rescue work.

“It is wonderful, but we never expected it,” Ward said. “My wife Tracy and I, our plans is: we want to leave this planet better off than when we found it. Everything that we can do to make a better world for all of us to live in.”

Along the way, the Wards have created their own charity brand (similar to the late Paul Newman) called Gentle Giants natural non-GMO ingredients pet foods, available through Chewy, Petco, Tractor Supply and PetSmart.

“We realized these dogs don’t have a very long life span,” Ward said. “Large dogs live under 10 years of age; the smaller ones, rarely do you see them go 13, 14 or 15. We decided that if we could find a way, we would help all dogs and cats live longer. We spent a tremendous amount of time and money to create a food that is different from every other pet food. We take no salary from it, this is not about money, this is our life’s work and charity.”

Ward insists that pets need more organic ingredients in their daily food intake.

“The key is there is no genetically-modified organisms in our food,” Ward said. “More than 90% of the human and animal food supply in our country has been genetically modified. … When they genetically modify the DNA of the plant, you can spray pesticides and it doesn’t kill the plant, but the problem is that it absorbs the pesticides. When your dog or cat eats (those) pesticides, they come down with cancer, the No. 1 killer of dogs and cats in America.”

Not only does he suggest his Gentle Giants Pet Food, he insists that his Gentle Giants Pet Care Program can help pets live up to 30 years with a better quality of life with free methods outlined on their charity’s website.

“We created a special way to feed dogs and cats,” Ward said. “We feed our dogs five times a day, smaller more frequent meals. We elevate their food and water dishes. … There’s a specific height for every dog. Why? Think of all that wasted energy if it has to lean down to get food. … If we can help you and everyone else keep their dog or cat an extra 10 or 15 years longer, not only is it great for the animal but what does it do for your life?”

Saving pets is a fitting superhero legacy for the Boy Wonder who once donned that iconic red and green outfit with a yellow cape and black eye mask. Thanks to reruns, multiple generations have grown up watching the tongue-in-cheek 60s series with its iconic theme song and kitschy “POW” graphics during fight sequences against the Joker (Caesar Romero), Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and Catwoman (Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt).

WTOP’s Jason Fraley not only dressed up as Robin for Halloween, he feared for Robin’s life when the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) strapped him to a table saw for a cliffhanger telling us to tune in next week: “Same bat time, same bat channel.”

“In that episode with the Riddler, Batman breaks through a subway wall to rescue me,” Ward said. “The studio forgot to build a breakaway wall, so when they set the charge of magnesium … the building didn’t blow open because it was real wood. (Instead,) the special effects guys used two half sticks of dynamite. … When I was tied on that table with my arms at my side, a 2×4 fell from above and landed on the bridge of my nose and broke my nose!”

Today, not even falling buildings can stop Ward from saving pets.

“As we said on ‘Batman’ — to the Batmobile!” Ward said.

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes Burt Ward's pet rescue mission (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on the podcast below:


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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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