Pat Derby, a well renowned animal trainer who worked with television programs Flipper and Lassie, has passed away from throat cancer.
Derby, 69, also worked on other television programs including Gunsmoke and Daktari, according to Yahoo! News.
A native of England, Derby moved to the United States when she was 12 to follow a dream of becoming a star in Hollywood and instead began training animals in show business. Pat Derby worked with Flipper and Lassie as well as the automotive manufacturer Lincoln Mercury’s iconic cougars.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in 1984, Derby co-founded the Performing Animals Welfare Society, an animal rights organization, with her longtime partner Ed Stewart.
Together, Derby and Stewart passed a landmark California law for standards of animals in captivity during the 80s and continued lobbying for a ban against elephants in traveling performance shows, something they both considered cruel.
The couple opened the first of three animal sanctuaries — which housed wolves, bears, lions, tigers, and elephants — in 1985.
PAWS said in a statement, “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.”
Derby died on Friday at her home in San Andreas, California with Stewart at her side.