Animal trainer Moe DiSesso, who trained such notable animal stars as Ben the rat and “Annie’s” dog Sandy, died July 2 in Newhall, Calif. He was 83.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 14 at the Newhall Church of Nazarene, 23857 The Old Rd., Newhall.
DiSesso won 11 Patsy awards for animal performers for the creatures he trained. He worked with trainer Frank Inn to train the popular Arnold of “Green Acres,” winning three Patsys for the collaboration.
He trained over 600 rats for the two rodent horror hits, winning a Patsy for directing Ben the rat in “Williard” and another for sequel “Ben.”
DiSesso also trained other well-known critters including Sandy the dog for the film “Annie” and Zorro the raccoon on “Lassie.” His raven, Jim Jr., appeared in more than 125 projects, including feature “The Raven” with Vincent Price and Jack Nicholson.
His German shepherds appeared in TV shows and films such as “The Bionic Woman,” “Rin Tin Tin,” “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Devil Dog: the Hound of Hell.”
DiSesso was also the official animal trainer for TV shows including “Seinfeld,” “Murphy Brown” and “3rd Rock from the Sun” and for films including “Swiss Family Robinson,” “The Gazebo” and “My Stepmother was an Alien.”
The trainer started working with animals after being injured in WWII, doing rodeo trick riding and horse training. When an animal trainer he was working with gave him a couple of raven eggs, his training business was launched when raven Jim Jr. was hatched.
He also acted in films including “The Ten Commandments,” “The Conquerors” with John Wayne, and on TV shows including “Seinfeld,” “Quantum Leap” and Bill Burrud’s “Animal World,” on which he was a co-producer.
More recently DiSesso appeared in Kid Rock’s musicvideo “Cowboy” and the Ludacris musicvideo “Act a Fool,” both filmed at his ranch, Moe’s Trading Post, in Newhall.
He is survived by his wife Sue, two sons, a stepson, a stepdaughter, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.