INVERCLYDE'S animal champion has been crowned and is set to scoop a bumper £500 worth of pet food.
It was a close call, but Tele readers voted with their hearts and chose veteran Gourock cat rescuer Betty Lafferty.
Betty, 71, pictured right, who has been caring for cats for more than 25 years, was the runaway winner of Pet Hero.
The contest was run in the Tele in conjunction with Wilkinson's in Greenock, who put up the fabulous prize of a year's supply of food.
An emotional Betty said: "This is absolutely wonderful. I am overwhelmed, I'm near to tears - this has really made my day.
"I'm worried about my husband just now who's not keeping well and this has given me a huge boost. I want to thank everyone who has voted for me - it's like Christmas coming early. I do it for the love of my cats and giving hope to people who have lost their pets. I always tell them never to give up and I try to give them hope."
After an appeal for nominations was launched, warm tributes quickly poured in for the plucky pensioner who has worked tirelessly to find homes for abandoned cats and feed and control feral colonies in Inverclyde.
Supporter Liz Ayliffe said: "Betty has worked endlessly day and night to have young and old cats rehomed.
"She has held jumble sales and coffee mornings to raise money to have cats and kittens neutered and to pay for vet bills for sick and injured cats.
"Betty has two runs in which cats are held until homes are found for them. She has to pay for the animals to be fed and this prize would be a total miracle.
"That is what I would like for Betty and the Inverclyde Cat Rescue."
Heather Cleary, of Port Glasgow, said: "I would like to nominate Mrs Lafferty as this lady is an angel and I dread to think what this area would be like without her unfailing care and love for stray cats.
"We used to see Betty out every week doing her car boot sales in all weathers to raise money to look after her beloved cats - what an inspiration.
"The world would be a much better place if we had more people like this lady. No one deserves the credit than she does."
Volunteers Karen Wrigley, from Hessilhead Wildlife Trust in Ayrshire, and Allison Black, of Inverclyde Animal Rescue, were also popular nominations.