Pat Derby, a former animal trainer for television shows like “Lassie” and “Flipper” who became a crusader against animal exploitation in entertainment and founded of one of the largest privately operated wildlife sanctuaries in the United States, died last Friday at her home in San Andreas, Calif. She was 69.
The cause was cancer, said Ed Stewart, her companion and only immediate survivor.
Ms. Derby was among the first animal rights advocates to champion performing animals, especially exotic species like elephants, apes, monkeys, lions and tigers. Though trainable, those animals have never been fully domesticated, and often end up abandoned or ill-treated once their usefulness as performers expires, she contended.
In 1984, Ms. Derby and Mr. Stewart founded the Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) and opened their first sanctuary on 30 acres in Galt, Calif., outside Sacramento, which was the first in the United States equipped to care for elephants. In 2002 they opened a second, more sprawling sanctuary called Ark 2000 in San Andreas, about 40 miles away.
Covering 2,300 acres, Ark 2000 has become a sort of retirement community for more than 100 exotic animals, most of them former film or circus performers, survivors of roadside zoos and former pets whose owners could no longer handle them. The facility is supported by private and corporate donations and a membership list said to number 33,000.