Pat Derby , a former Hollywood trainer for Flipper, Lassie and other performing animals has died at age 69, her organization said Monday.
Derby succumbed to throat cancer on Friday at her home in the biggest of the animal sanctuaries run by her organization, the Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, in San Andreas, Calif., outside Sacramento.
During her career as a trainer, she worked with elephants, tigers, and animals for shows like Lassie, Flipper and Gunsmoke, developing methods based on trust between animals and their trainer, instead of fear. She shocked the entertainment world in 1976 with her memoir The Lady and Her Tiger, which detailed widespread abuse of performance animals in the film and television industry.
Along with her longtime partner Ed Stewart, Derby founded PAWS in 1984 to rescue and provide humane sanctuary for animals from the exotic and performing animal trades.Ed Stewart was at her side at the time of death .
“She was the first to champion the cause of performing animals, and today, because of her tireless work, and fierce determination, most animal protection organizations now have captive wildlife programs that address the issues of performing animals,” PAWS said.
Derby testified before Congress twice and served on several state committees setting standards for the care and handling of elephants and other exotic species, PAWS said.