Celebrating 30 Years

PAWS Marks One-Year Anniversary of the Passing of Co-founder Pat Derby

It's hard to believe that an entire year has passed since the loss of PAWS co-founder Pat Derby, who was a leader, an inspiration, visionary and dear friend. Pat died on February 15, 2013, after battling throat cancer. Not a day goes by that we don't think about Pat - her great accomplishments, her wisdom and experience, her sense of humor, and her special way with the animals at PAWS.


Early 1990s at PAWS' sanctuary in Galt, Calif.: Pat with her beloved cougar Christopher, once the star of the "Sign of the Cat" car commercials for Lincoln Mercury. From the time he was a baby he would suck on Pat's thumb and purr.

Following Pat's passing, it was no surprise that she would be recognized internationally for her life's work, and that she would be honored from city halls in Los Angeles and Toronto, to the California State Assembly, to the U.S. Congress, including having a flag flown over the nation's capitol in Washington, D.C., in her honor.


On March 29, 2013, Pat's partner and PAWS' co-founder Ed Stewart, along with PAWS' staff, long-time friends and celebrities - including Bob Barker, Kim Basinger, Tony LaRussa, and Kevin Nealon - gathered together with hundreds of PAWS' supporters at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. Through tears and laughter, Pat's life and legacy was celebrated (a commemorative DVD of this special evening is available; see details below).


Pat was the first to champion the cause of performing wild animals, and she put her heart and soul into their rescue, care and protection. She was full of dreams, but unlike many people, she realized hers with a vengeance! Pat's cherished dream of creating a spacious refuge where performing animals could express their wild natures in an enriching, natural habitat became what is now ARK 2000 in San Andreas, Calif. - a thriving 2,300-acre sanctuary where we currently care for 11 elephants, 21 tigers, 4 lions, 7 bears and one black leopard.

December 2011: Pat clowning around during a weekend trip to the mountains.
Photo by Ed Stewart

No one but Pat could conceive of and realize an event as spectacular as "Circus PAWS," which debuted in Hollywood, Calif., in 2012. The circus used only human performers to entertain and to teach young and old alike that wild animals just don't belong in circuses.


Pat fearlessly advocated for captive wildlife and performing animals. Together, she and Ed set the pace for the legislative work that we continue today. Always at the forefront, they inspired and passed milestone legislation in California, and stormed the halls in Washington, D.C., bringing the suffering of elephants in circuses and traveling shows to light with moving testimony before members of Congress.


Jack Hanna has long used wild animals as "props" on TV talk shows. Once these captive-bred animals are too old to be "entertaining" (or safely handled) their futures are uncertain. Always one to speak her mind, Pat signals her opinion of Hanna's activities in this photo taken outside the Columbus Zoo. 
Photo by Ed Stewart

Firm believers in education, Pat and Ed began presenting conferences intended to bring together disparate factions in the captive wildlife field, in order to understand, learn, and, yes, to disagree - but always with respect and with the goal of advancing the welfare of captive animals. On November 8-10, 2014, in Los Angeles, PAWS will again bring together the best and most progressive minds to discuss the welfare of elephants and other species held in captivity for human convenience and entertainment (watch for conference registration details to come). 


What was most important to Pat was that PAWS continues to thrive and to grow, and to help even more captive wildlife in need through rescue, education and advocacy. And we have. In 2013, PAWS did Pat proud, achieving landmark victories, like the ban on bullhooks in Los Angeles, welcoming three African elephants from Canada to ARK 2000, and helping to educate the public through our appearances in the media, including the acclaimed HBO documentary, An Apology To Elephants, narrated by PAWS' friend Lily Tomlin.

Pat loved cooking gourmet vegetarian meals, collecting cookbooks and watching cooking shows. A 2012 birthday weekend in the Napa Valley included a trip to the St. Helena campus of the Culinary Institute of America. Its New York campus was once called "the Harvard of cooking schools" by famed chef Julia Child. Pat, by the way, could do a "spot on" impression of Julia. Photo by Ed Stewart


In this, PAWS' 30th year of work for captive wild animals and those still performing and held in intolerable conditions, we will strive for even greater achievements and to inspire compassion and change.


All the while, we will feel Pat's presence with us - her determination, her fire, her fearless nature - urging us to reach even higher than before, because the animals need us, and they need you, our dedicated supporters, to stand up for them and to be their voice.
Together, we can, and we will, change their world.

From our archives. . . 

Feb. 28, 2013:
Ed Stewart's tribute to Pat Derby
View here.

Mar. 29, 2013:
Memorial Celebration, Crest Theatre
View story and photos here.

Apr. 2013:
Special tributes to Pat Derby
View here.

Rumblings From PAWS, by Pat Derby: Sept. 27, 2011 to Apr. 27, 2012
Read Pat Derby's blog, including "The Dream", the story of how PAWS came to be. These are some of her last writings.

Honor the life and work of Pat Derby
to PAWS in her honor. 
Pat walking with 71.
This was her favorite photo.
PAT DERBY: Celebrating A Remarkable Life
PAT DERBY: Celebrating A Remarkable Life

Nothing happens unless first a dream. . .

Pat Derby: A Memorial Celebration
2-Disk DVD $30.00 + $5.95 shipping and handling

A celebration of Pat's life and legacy was held at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento, California, on March 29, 2013. The entire 3-hour celebration is now available on DVD with the proceeds from the sale benefiting PAWS' animals. This 2-disc set includes heartfelt tributes from Ed Stewart, Pat's partner and PAWS' co-founder, as well as Bob Barker, Kim Basinger, Lily Tomlin, Tony LaRussa, Kevin Nealon, Congressman Sam Farr, and many more.


From the Sacramento Bee

Monday, Feb. 10, 2014


Dec. 2002: Pat Derby with Asian elephants Tammy (with Pat) and Annie

Photo by Randy Pench, Sacramento Bee


Animal Sanctuary Continues

To Grow After Losing Founder


By Cynthia Hubert


SAN ANDREAS -- In her final weeks, as cancer sapped her strength, Pat Derby would gaze out the window at the elephants and other wild creatures that inhabit the sanctuary she founded in the golden hills of Calaveras County.


Lying in her hospital bed in the living room of her home at her ARK 2000 compound, she no longer could chirp out greetings or groom the pachyderms, bears and big cats that occupy the spectacular 2,300-acre haven she created for retired performing animals. . .


Click here to read the entire article, and view more photos, in the Sacramento Bee. 



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PO Box 849
Galt, CA 95632
(209) 745-2606