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Remembering the beloved lawyer, animal activist, legend, Skip Trimble

May 31, 2023

It’s been just over a year since pets and people who love them lost one of their staunchest advocates, an attorney nicknamed “The Godfather of Animal Law.”

The loss is still stinging, but Robert Lynn “Skip” Trimble’s role in the Texas Humane Legislation Network, and his compassion-driven dedication to animal welfare, meant enduring changes to the way animals are treated and legally protected.

The last legislative session, in his absence, was difficult, say his co-lobbyists and THLN members.

“He taught me everything I know,” says Shelby Bobosky, animal welfare activist, attorney and executive director of THLN.

Not only was Skip a relentless voice for gentle beasts and a guiding light for younger animal welfare champs, but he also was hilarious, Bobosky says.

She recalls a 2015 meeting in a state legislator’s office.

Together she and Skip were lobbying for a bill that would force police officers to have some form of canine-encounter training because at the time, “family pets, dogs, were being shot left and right by police officers,” Bobosky says.

When a barking dog threatened, “they would just shoot versus the myriad other ways they could handle it.” She and Skip believed even minimal training could save the lives of protective pups.

The problem was explicitly with dogs, but ambitious legislators wanted to require training for run-ins with all animals, Bobosky recalls. Skip thought that was complicating things unnecessarily. “That would require hours and hours of training,” he told the legislator. “And they’re not zoologists, you know. We just don’t want them shooting dogs.”

The lawmaker pushed back, arguing that cops encounter “all kinds of angry animals.” In his funny and sarcastic way, Skip replied, “Oh you mean those vicious, angry goats coming at them?”

Meanwhile, Bobosky says, she was trying hard not to crumple in a fit of laughter.

The trailblazing Trimble died at 82, leaving his friends and acquaintances “stunned and saddened,” as pet news blogger Larry Powell put it at the time. “Skip earned his stars as a role model for animal advocacy and just plain being a critter fan and fine human being,” Powell noted. “Anybody who’s been around animal issues in Texas and Dallas for the past umpteen years knows of Skip Trimble.”

Skip’s earliest years were lived in Oak Cliff, where in 1957 he graduated with South Oak Cliff High School’s inaugural class. At Southern Methodist University he was a cheerleader, member of Kappa Alpha and senior class president. He remained in University Park for law school, then moved to D.C. where he worked in the U.S. Department of Justice. Within a few years he returned to Dallas, where he founded a private practice, worked with firms and corporations, and finished up his career with Catlyn Capital, which he founded with friend and colleague Baker Montgomery.

In her husband’s obituary, Mary Trimble chronicles his characteristics — “compassionate, dedicated, a storyteller, fair, social-justice oriented, best joke-teller ever, genuine ham, legal genius, master of countless college jobs, life of every party, generous with time and money, tenacious for animals, steadfast for equality …” represents a snippet.

Mary wrote about meeting her “soulmate” on a campaign bus trip. They disagreed about politics and argued about a local doctor, but they both liked country music, especially Charlie Pride, so Skip cranked up his boombox and the pair sang along to “Crystal Chandeliers.” That was the start of a 44-year romance.

They found further common ground in their fondness for animals. Mary nudged Skip to take on a pro bono case for a nonprofit rescue and shelter group that was battling local bureaucracy. That was his first call to animal welfare law, and he answered.

“It was eye-opening for him to learn how animals were abused,” Mary says. “That enlightenment led to his commitment, not just to rights and protection for animals, but also to disenfranchised people.”

Skip was instrumental in the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, animal-friendly license plates, puppy mill code, dog-fighting regulations, writing the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, closing horse-slaughtering plants, appointment of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s first Animal Cruelty Prosecutor and shaping our city’s canine/feline overpopulation response — and that just scratches the surface.

Powell the pet blogger says he is “convinced that Skip is among the leading reasons Dallas has an actual grown-up animal shelter instead of [some] old mid-20th century brick structures that are nothing more than storage facilities for animals awaiting the needle.”

This was a mission, not a job. All of Skip’s animal-welfare legislative work was pro bono, Mary says.

Dozens of Skip’s loved ones professed their admiration while he was still alive, when THLN honored him in 2017. His sister, Karen Hall, called him her hero. “Our entire family is so proud of this man,” she said, detailing his profound effect on her children, nieces and nephews. Nephew Ben Hall spoke about climbing mountains with Skip in Africa’s Okavango Delta, joking that, “I’ve had two near-death experiences, and Uncle Skip was directly involved in both.” Friend Ron Marba added, “No two-legged or four-legged critter could have a better friend than Skip Trimble.”

Those who loved Skip, and whom Skip loved, are too voluminous to name, but to all of them, Mary Trimble suggests that, in his honor, they “be good-hearted, be kind to everyone, remember a story he told with all his crazy facial expressions and recall how it often made you belly laugh. And then, smile.”