Melvyn Driver, Stephen Paysse, Michelle Rose, Marge Wright, & Eleonora Worth mostly helped animals behind the scenes
Driver “designed & built humane animal handling equipment for over 50 years”
Melvyn Driver, 80, of Luton, United Kingdom, whose “innovation, knowledge of cats, and passion for problem-solving helped to shape the success of trap/neuter/return feral cat control in the 20th century and beyond, passed away of natural causes on May 24, 2021.” registered veterinary nurse Miranda Luck wrote to ANIMALS 24-7.
“He designed and built humane animal handling equipment for over 50 years.”
Luck, a longtime consultant for MDC Exports, the second successful animal care equipment company that Driver founded, is scarcely alone in her perspective.
“Instrumental in the success of TNR”
“Melvyn was instrumental in shaping the success of TNR,” agreed VetSurgeon News editor Arlo Guthrie.
Wrote Luck, “His work in this field began in the early 1980s,” when feral cats “roamed cities, suburban industrial sites, old hospitals, and farms all over the U.K.
“A plain-speaking Melvyn features in a 1984 documentary, Walk on the Wildside, explaining his role traveling up and down the country. Chloroform gassing was the accepted means of feral cat population management at the time, but Melvyn was keen to work with others to develop alternative methods.
“The turning point,” Luck recalled, “was meeting Celia Hammond,” the 1960s supermodel who went on to found the Celia Hammond Animal Welfare Trust, along with animal welfare scientist Jenny Remfry, VMD, and Peter Neville, “a research biologist for the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
“Melvyn acted on their requests for better and more humane traps and engineered his first trap,” called the Eziset, Luck said.
From traps to muzzles
The Cat Action Trust, one of the first organizations to do neuter/return on a significant scale, “were delighted to use Melvyn’s traps and restrainers,” Luck continued. “Following this success, and at the request of the Royal SPCA, Melvyn developed a humane dog grasper. The traps, graspers, and other humane animal handling products soon became essential pieces of kit for veterinarians, rescue workers, dog wardens, and others in the animal welfare sector.”
At a U.S. pet trade show, “Disillusioned by the vast array of products made from the ‘new’ molded plastic, Melvyn shared his thoughts with an equally dispirited young Taiwanese man,” Steve Won, who “had a plastic factory, but little knowledge of pet products.
“This was the start of a great friendship and the basis of Mikki Pet Products. Melvyn’s gregarious nature soon made him a much liked player in pet trade accessories,” Luck wrote.
The Mikki Muzzle became the top-selling muzzle in Britain and perhaps the world, followed by the Baskerville Muzzle, co-designed by Driver and dog behaviorist Roger Mugford.
Innovation in Humane Cat Population Management
“In 1998,” Luck added, “Melvyn sold Mikki to focus on his real passion––developing high welfare animal handling equipment and products. MDC Exports sells products to over 60 countries worldwide and annually donates thousands of pounds worth of equipment to deserving animal rescue recipients via the International Companion Animal Welfare Conference.
“In 2018,” Luck finished, “Melvyn enjoyed one of his proudest moments when International Cat Care gave him a special award for the Innovation in Humane Cat Population Management.”
“A little bit of Melvyn is in every vet clinic”
Said Ian MacFarlaine, RVN, to VetSurgeon News, “His impact on the veterinary world is only eclipsed by how much of a contribution he made to animal charities globally, not just in inventing stuff, but then discounting it readily, through good and bad economic times, and then if that wasn’t enough, giving thousands of pounds worth of it away at the International Companion Animal Welfare Conference every year.
“If you were privileged enough to know him well,” MacFarlaine concluded, “then you’ll miss the kindness, the mischievous humor, and the occasional bad taste joke. But I can guarantee that a little bit of Melvyn is there in each and every one of your practices in the form of one piece of equipment or another.”
Paysse got the job done
Stephen Paysse, 73, first executive director of the Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation [WAIF], serving from 2008 to 2013, died on June 14, 2021 “from a brain hemorrhage, after a long decline with Alzheimer’s,” his daughter Erin posted to Facebook.
Paysse also left an adult son, Adam.
WAIF, founded in 1990, was initially directed by board committee, and later by the board committee together with shelter manager Shari Bibich, hired in 1995.
Paysse, a former building contractor and formerly employed by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Australia, presided over the last five years of a 15-year effort to build the current WAIF animal shelter, near Coupeville, Washington.
Fought disinformation & embezzlement
The campaign was handicapped by an aggressive disinformation effort by local pit bull advocates, one of whom, as an erstwhile WAIF volunteer, planted a false allegation in the WAIF newsletter that WAIF euthanized all pit bulls and then amplified it via social media before anyone on the WAIF board or staff knew about it. WAIF subsequently experienced several break-ins and dog thefts, and Paysse was obliged to obtain a restraining order against one pit bull advocate for accosting staff at the shelter.
Meanwhile, WAIF also suffered the alleged embezzlement of as much as $410,000 from the estate of the late Jean Froman of Oak Harbor, Washington (1939-2012), left to WAIF. Former Oak Harbor probate attorney Douglas Saar was convicted of the embezzlement in 2014. Saar reportedly served 17 months in prison. WAIF eventually received about $140,000 from the Froman estate, former WAIF president Robert Raup told media.
Declining health forced retirement
WAIF throughout Paysse’s tenure operated separate community shelters serving Island County and the city of Oak Harbor, plus cat shelters in Oak Harbor and the town of Freeland, and thrift stores in Coupeville, Freeland, and Oak Harbor.
The Oak Harbor shelter and Coupeville thrift store have subsequently been closed.
LifeFlighted from Whidbey Island in 2011 due to a massive heart attack, Paysse returned to work at WAIF within days, but deteriorating health obliged his retirement about a year and a half later.
Rose worked 17 years for WAIF, fighting cancer for eight years
Michelle Valentine Rose, 51, a Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation employee since 2004, died on June 3, 2021, after an eight-year battle with cancer, “with her loving daughter Ariana [Kianous] by her bedside,” 25-year WAIF shelter manager Shari Bibich posted to Facebook.
Originally from Los Angeles, Rose “was both a thrift store sales associate and an animal care technician, working at our location in Oak Harbor,” a combined thrift store and cat adoption shelter, “up until a few weeks of her passing. Everywhere she went she made friends along the way.
“Michelle was unabashedly unique and unapologetically quirky, with a beautiful and kind soul,” Bibich added. “Her family and friends meant so much to her, but not nearly as half as much as she meant to us.”
Wright hosted Pets on Parade
Marge Wright, 89, described by Scott Craven of the Arizona Republic as “dogs’ and cats’ best friend for nearly a half-century as host of Pets on Parade,” a televised adoption promotion for the Arizona Humane Society broadcast weekly since 1958, died on June 1, 2021.
Recalled Craven, “Wright began her longtime affiliation with the Arizona Humane Society in 1955, shortly after she and her husband Robert moved here from Scranton, Pennsylvania, where she had served on the board of the [local] humane society.”
Early association with Helen Jones?
As there were, and still are, several humane societies serving Scranton and Lackawanna County, which humane society Wright was with remains unclear.
At the Lackawanna County Humane Society, however, Wright might have served alongside Helen Jones (1925-1998). Seven years her elder, Jones cofounded the Humane Society of the U.S. in 1954, and founded the National Catholic Society for Animal Welfare in January 1959, which in 1977 became the International Society for Animal Rights.
This was also the year in which Robert Wright died. Widowed at 45, Marge Wright threw herself even more into humane work.
“Soon became a mainstay”
“After eight years as a volunteer,” Craven continued, Marge Wright “was hired by the Arizona Humane Society as an administrative assistant. She would serve 20 years as director of education before she was put in charge of community outreach.”
Marge Wright did not participate in Pets on Parade until circa 1964. Making her television debut, Craven remembered, “in a segment in which she advertised various products available in the Humane Society’s gift shop,” Marge Wright soon became “a mainstay on the show,” helping to facilitate more than 25,000 adoptions of pets she had shown on the air.
For a time in 1987 Marge Wright also had her own one-hour pet advice broadcast on KTAR-AM radio.
S/N clinic named in Marge Wright’s honor
“She is a big reason, if not the reason, why the Arizona Humane Society blossomed into a leading animal welfare organization in Arizona and nationally,” said Kim Noetzel, who for 10 years was the Arizona Humane Society director of marketing, cohosting Pets on Parade with Marge Wright before leaving to become communications manager for PetSmart Charities.
Marge Wright “received one of her more lasting honors in 2008,” Craven remembered, “when the Humane Society renamed its Sunnyslope facility clinic the Marge Wright Low Cost Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic.”
Worth was shelter volunteer & major donor
Eleanora “Eleo” Worth, 88, a longtime vegan, animal rights advocate, and donor to many animal charities, remembered by International Primate Protection League founder Shirley McGreal for attending all IPPL conferences, died on April 10, 2021.
Born in Charles Town, West Virginia, Worth lived most of her life in first Arlington, Virginia, and later Alexandria, where she was a longtime animal shelter volunteer and a regular visitor to the Sherwood Regional Library.
Worth earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from West Virginia University in Morgantown, then a master’s degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, and later earned a second master’s degree in French from Catholic University and the Sorbonne in Paris, also completing course work for a doctorate.