Roy Kabat, who taught lions how to star in films, cougars how to snarl for television commercials and lastly and more importantly dogs to help keep deaf people from harm, has died in Medford, Ore., headquarters of his Dogs for the Deaf.
Kabat was 65 and had a lengthy history of kidney ailments. He died Oct. 30 but his death went unreported until this week.
Kabat trained the animals in "Dr. Doolittle," "Swiss Family Robinson," Elsa the lioness in "Born Free" and the cougar for Mercury automobile commercials. He also produced such syndicated children's TV shows as "Chucko the Clown" and "Circus."
He retired from the entertainment industry in 1971, moving to Oregon and there founded Dogs for the Deaf. Dogs were trained to respond to ringing doorbells, jangling telephones, buzzing smoke alarms and tea kettles that had boiled themselves dry.
His animals--of all breeds and sizes--would run to their hearing-impaired owners and take them to the source of the problem.
He trained 20 or more dogs at a time, most saved from nearby Humane Societies.
"They're the dogs that otherwise might be put to sleep," he would say on his tours to raise funds for his nonprofit organization which delivers about 50 dogs a year free to deaf people anywhere in the United States.
Dogs in training initially were given food when they would react properly to an alarm clock or telephone. But over the four months of that training they gradually were weaned from food to a kind word or pat on the head.
The organization will continue under Kabat's daughter, Robin. He also is survived by his wife, Marie, two stepsons and three grandchildren.