Lifestyle & Belief

Pat Derby, 'Lassie' and 'Flipper' trainer and animal rights activist, dies at 69


IDA President Elliot Katz, DVM, Humane Society President Gretchen Wyler, animal activist Pat Derby and Dr. Jane Goodall attend the 2nd Annual Guardian Awards fundraiser hosted by the In Defense of Animals organization at Paramount Studios October 30, 2004 in Hollywood, California.


Vince Bucci

Pat Derby, who trained beloved Hollywood animals "Lassie" and "Flipper," has died of throat cancer. She was 69.

Derby moved from England to the US at age 12, and reached her Hollywood goal in the 1960s and 70s, when she worked on the beloved show "Lassie" as well as trained animals on "Daktari" and "Gunsmoke," according to the Associated Press.

She was also the wrangler for Chauncey and Christopher, a pair of pumas who were famed for posing with Farrah Fawcett in commercials for the Mercury Cougar, the AP reported. 

The trainer, who went on to become an animal rights activist, passed away at her home in San Andreas, California, outside Sacramento — fittingly, at one of the largest sanctuaries of her animal protection non-profit, Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), the Associated Press reported. 

Derby founded PAWS in 1984 after her long career working with show business animals exposed the mistreatment and abuse many of them suffered. The organization, which she founded with her longtime partner Ed Stewart, rescues animals from the exotic and performing animal trades and offers them sanctuary, Reuters reported.

PAWS now runs three sanctuaries, which house housed wolves, bears, lions, tigers and elephants, the Los Angeles Times reported

The couple also pushed for a California law that set standards of living for animals in captivity, which was passed in the mid-1980s. 

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