Guy Bilyeu, dancer, activist, executive director
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2013: (Actually published on October 8, 2013)
Guy Bilyeu, 54, died on September 14, 2013 in Chatanooga, Tennessee, a week after suffering a heart attack while bicycling.
Born in Hopewell, Virginia, Bilyeu was for 22 years a professional dancer and singer, performing with his former wife and principal ballerina Eileen Price for companies including the Nevada Dance Theatre, Sacramento Ballet, and Colorado Ballet.
Active on behalf of animals during his dancing career, Bilyeu helped to end the sale of pound animals to laboratories in Sacramento, California, then in 1989 helped the Performing Animal Welfare Society to obtain undercover video of entertainer Bobby Berosini allegedly beating orangutans. Then-Circus Circus employee Linda Faso had tried to expose and stop Berosini as early as 1972, but without success until dancers led by Ottavio Gesmundo and including Bilyeu produced visual documentation of Faso’s claims. Eighteen years of ensuing litigation ended Berosini’s U.S. career, though he is believed to have continued performing in Latin America.
After retiring from dancing, Bilyeu briefly headed the senior services agency Catalina Helping Hands in Tucson, Arizona, then served for three years as executive director of the Humane Society of Williamson County in Leander, Texas. There Bilyeu reportedly doubled grant receipts, nearly trebled special giving, and cut shelter killing by more than 80%.
Hired in mid-2003 to head the Humane Education Society in Chatanooga, Bilyeu attracted national attention in April 2006 when he paid $16,000 for 60 dogs from the estate of a deceased Georgia breeder. Also in 2006 Bilyeu became a board member for Humane Strategies, which operates the Rescue Waggin’ program funded by PetSmart Charities. Under Bilyeu the Humane Education Society achieved no-kill status in 2008.