The star made no secret of his canine adoration and hosted the award-winning ITV show For the Love of Dogs, which was filmed at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London.
He also allowed his pets to become part of his act, with his beloved dog Buster a regular on tour and on television with him until its death.
We take a look at how animals and his own pets became a constant in his showbusiness career.
Why a love of animals was a constant theme of O’Grady’s career
O’Grady rose to fame in the 1990s with his drag act Lily Savage and went on to become a host and presenter of a number television and radio shows over more than 30 years.
But he became as famous for his connection to canines and love of animals as his comedy and presenting roles.
His Shih Tzu-Bichon Frise cross named Buster was a constant companion when he toured with a musical version of Prisoner: Cell Block H and was a regular on his television shows.
Speaking about his pet, O’Grady said: “He was never happier than in a TV studio or theatre… Buster knew all the theatre doormen and loved being fussed over.
“He was a smashing dog.”
He was a big hit with audiences on The Paul O’Grady Show and a source of comfort after the death of the star’s partner, Brendan Murphy, in 2005.
How he became an ambassador for animals
In 2012, ITV launched the documentary series Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs based at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London.
After the first series, he was invited to become an ambassador for the charity and a bronze statue of his dog Buster was erected at the centre. Buster had died in 2009.
O’Grady would go on to present the show for eleven series, saying it was “hand on heart… one of the nicest jobs I’ve ever had” and praised the home as “a magical place”.
Peter Laurie, Battersea’s chief executive, said: “Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres.
“Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.”
He praised his “extremely hands-on approach” as a Battersea ambassador and said he had been fundamental in helping the charity to communicate important campaign messages.
“He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life. He will be dearly missed,” he said.
Last year, O’Grady was joined by Camilla, the Queen Consort in a special one-off episode of the programme to mark 160 years of the organisation.
Paying tribute to the star, Camilla said she is “deeply saddened to have learned of the death of Paul O’Grady, with whom she worked closely to support the work of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and whose warm heart and infectious humour lit up the lives of so many”.
On the back of the success of For the Love of Dogs, O’Grady went on to present a number of other animal-related shows including Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans, Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Animals and the ITV documentary Me and My Guide Dog.
His contribution to animal welfare was recognised with an RSPCA Animal Hero Award.
Chris Sherwood, RSPCA chief executive, said: “Paul O’Grady’s love for animals and the incredible way he told their stories inspired countless families to re-home rescue pets and give them a second chance of happiness.”
The star had once adopted a lamb called Winston from the charity after it had been rescued from a wheelie bin.
How many pets did Paul O’Grady have?
In 1999, O’Grady moved out of London to Aldington in Kent and established a smallholding on the estate.
As a child, he had pet rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and even a ferret.
At his home in Kent, he kept sheep, pigs, goats, donkeys, ducks, chickens, geese and dogs over the years.
Aside from Buster, he had a Cairn Terrier called Olga which died in 2018.
He also rehomed a number of dogs. During the first series of For the Love of Dogs, he took home Eddie, a Chihuahua-Jack Russell cross puppy.
Eddie was joined by Boycie, a Shih Tzu in 2014, Conchita, a Maltese in 2015, Arfur, a mongrel puppy in 2017, Nancy, another mongrel puppy in 2020, and Sausage, a wire-haired Dachshund in 2021.