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Gretchen Wyler, 75, actress

Broadway star was leading animal activist

Gretchen Wyler, a veteran Broadway actress who enjoyed a second career on television and was a leading animal rights activist, died Sunday. She was 75.

Wyler died at her home in Camarillo, Calif., of complications from breast cancer, the Humane Society of the United States said in a statement.

“The humane movement has lost one of its brightest stars,” said Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. “Gretchen Wyler devoted 40 intense years to protecting animals, and the cause gained so much ground during that time because of her extraordinary achievements and advocacy _ in the media, in law-making, and in raising public consciousness.”

Wyler’s theatrical career spanned 50 years, including parts on Broadway in the original “Guys and Dolls,” “Silk Stockings,” “Damn Yankees,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Sly Fox” with George C. Scott.

She was a regular on the short-lived 1970s CBS television series “On Our Own,” spent a season on “Dallas” and made guest appearances on a number of shows including “Friends,” “Judging Amy” and “Providence.”

Wyler began her crusade for animal rights in 1966 after witnessing poor conditions at a New York shelter. Wyler managed the shelter for 10 years and in 1970 became the first woman member of the board of directors of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

She formed The Ark Trust in 1991 and ran the organization until it joined forces with the Humane Society in 2002. Last year she retired as vice president of the Humane Society in Hollywood.

In 1986 she created the Genesis Awards, which honors the media and entertainment industry for shining a spotlight on animal cruelty. This year, the first Gretchen Wyler Award was bestowed on Paul McCartney, for a lifetime of activism for animals.

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