UNSUNG heroes of the war in Afghanistan are being championed in a unique Christmas appeal.

Mandy Rawstron, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, is appealing to people to donate presents to the Army’s sniffer dogs.

Private Jason Rawstron, 23, from Clayton-le-Moors, was shot dead by a Taliban gunman in Helmand province in September 2008.

Ever since his death Mandy, 47, of Barnes Street, has worked to support the Help for Heroes soldiers’ charity.

While doing so, she realised the courage of the Army’s Arms and Explosives Search (AES) dogs also deserved the British public’s thanks.

And now she wants people to think of the brave animals and reward them with donations of dog food, treats and toys at a collection point in Accrington Town Hall.

She said: “After Jason died I sent boxes of presents at Christmas to support the lads that were still out there.

“I read about a soldier who died and his dog was by his side and that made me think.

“The dogs go out first to see if they can find the IEDs, so they are heroes as well. They need as much love and respect as the soldiers get.

"They are really brave animals and nobody gives them a pat on the back like the soldiers get. It’s about time they did.”

Mandy enlisted the help of Clayton-le-Moors ward coun-cillor Tim O’Kane to organise ‘Hyndburn Help for the Heroes’ Hounds’.

Coun O’Kane said: “Mandy brought it to my attention that the troops love the dogs and sort of feel guilty about them not being sent Christmas hampers as well.

"I organised a collection of dog treats and dog toys last year, which we kept to just council employees, and the response was phenomenal.

“This year we’re going to open it up to the public. I think we are the only people doing something like this.

“Last year there were around 20 dogs in Afghanistan, but David Cameron said this year that there would be a lot of money spent on anti-IED devices.

"A significant amount was spent on the purchasing and training of these dogs, so there are now about 200, which means we need ten times as many treats.”