Pat Derby was one of my heroes on the animal welfare front. She was the first to champion the cause of performing animals, and today, because of her work and her fierce determination, most animal protection organizations have captive wildlife programs that address the issues of performing animals. I read her poignant autobiography, “Lady and Her Tiger” way back in 1976, and have followed PAWS since its inception.
Born in 1942, Derby was a British-born American animal trainer for American television series during the 1960s and 1970s and later became a crusader for animal rights.
As a child she often begged her father to take her to the circus to see the elephants. At age 15 she moved to New York City to study ballet and theater. She also enrolled at Columbia University, but dropped out at age 19 to move to California. While performing at a San Francisco nightclub she met animal trainer Ted Derby, and they married in 1964.
The couple trained wild animals for television shows and movies, using “affection methods” that avoided causing pain for the animal. But Pat disagreed with Ted’s use of an electric cattle prod in training, and they divorced in the mid-1970s. She trained animals for the CBS television series Lassie, Gentle Ben and Daktari and the NBC series Flipper, and many others. She also worked on the Lincoln-Mercury ad campaign that featured Farrah Fawcett with two cougars in the 1970s.
In 1976 Derby was working with Christopher, her cougar who appeared in Lincoln-Mercury commercials, at the Cleveland auto show when she met Ed Stewart who was to become her partner for 37 years. Together they retired her animals and founded the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in 1984. Derby’s 1976 book “The Lady and Her Tiger” was a harsh expose of the entertainment industry’s treatment of animals, and PAWS became a leading advocate for better treatment of animals in captivity. PAWS first animal sanctuary encompassed 30 acres outside Galt, California, and was the first in the United States capable of caring for elephants.
In 2013, Derby died at her home in San Andreas, California following a long battle with throat cancer.
June is the 13th anniversary of the arrival of 39 tigers from a rundown, bogus tiger sanctuary . This video is dedicated to her memory.