Honorary awards include the Sid Caesar Award for television comedy , the Doris Day Award for music , the Brigitte Bardot International Award for non-American media, and the Gretchen Wyler Award for a celebrity using their fame to bring attention to animal issues.

The Genesis Awards were founded as an annual event in 1986 by the Broadway actress and animal advocate Gretchen Wyler , under the aegis of the Fund for Animals. Wyler believed that rewarding members of the media encouraged them to spotlight more animal issues, thus increasing public awareness and compassion toward animals. The first event, a luncheon, drew 140 attendees, and in subsequent years it grew into a large gala averaging 800 guests.

In 1991, Wyler founded the Ark Trust, Inc., to present the Genesis Awards. Dr. Michael A. Giannelli (Ph.D. in clinical psychology; UCLA) served as the Founding Executive Director from 1991 through 1997. In 1990, it became a television special airing first on the Discovery Channel and then on Animal Planet . In August 2002, the Ark Trust joined with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Wyler, as Vice President of HSUS Hollywood, continued her role as Chair of the event and Executive Producer of the Genesis Awards television special until her retirement in 2006.

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