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PAWS Officers and Directors


In memory of Pat Derby
PAWS founder and former president

Pat Derby’s advocacy for animals developed more than 35 years ago when she began working with captive wildlife in movies and television commercials. While working on television series such as Gunsmoke, Lassie, Daktari, and Flipper, she witnessed the neglect and abuse prevalent in animal training. Determined to initiate better standards of care and handling for performing animals, Pat chronicled her adventures in a Book-of-the-Month Club autobiography, The Lady and Her Tiger.  The first exposé of the treatment of performing animals, The Lady and Her Tiger won an American Library Association Award in 1976. More»

"Pat Derby: Celebrating A Remarkable Life"

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1973: "What's My Line" with special guest, Pat Derby.
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Ed Stewart*

President/PAWS Co-founder

Ed Stewart co-founded the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in 1984 to advocate and provide sanctuary for abandoned, abused and retired performing animals and victims of the exotic animal trade. Mr. Stewart has positioned PAWS as the leader in the "confront captivity" movement which examines the ethics and efficacy of confining wild animals for novelty, education and conservation. Stewart and PAWS co-founder the late Pat Derby established the nation's first elephant sanctuary in Galt, California, in 1986.


Mr. Stewart oversees all aspects of the organization, including its captive wildlife sanctuaries, direct action advocacy, and legislative efforts. Currently, PAWS operates three sanctuaries in Northern California including the 2,300-acre natural habitat ARK 2000 refuge, and cares for elephants, tigers, lions, bears and other wild and exotic species. PAWS is a charter member of the Global Federation of  Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). In 2013, Stewart, Derby and the elephants of ARK 2000 were featured in the critically-acclaimed HBO documentary "An Apology to Elephants."


Recognized for his expertise in the management and care of wild animals, including his innovative habitat designs at the ARK 2000 sanctuary, Mr. Stewart regularly consults for organizations around the world on wild animal rescues and habitat design, and has worked in range countries on projects aimed at mitigating human-elephant conflict. He also provides expert verbal and written guidance to other organizations on cases of animal abuse, neglect, conditions, rescue, transportation and housing.


Mr. Stewart serves on the Director’s Advisory Committee on the Humane Care and Treatment of Wild Animals for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. He also sits on the advisory committees for the Detroit Zoological Society’s Center for Zoo Animal Welfare (CZAW) and The Whale Sanctuary Project. He is a popular speaker at various events and conferences, both locally and around the world, where he educates the public about issues affecting wildlife in captivity and in the wild. He regularly provides expert testimony at state, county and city public policy hearings. 



Ed Minghelli**
Vice President

Ed Minghelli has served on the PAWS Board for more than a decade. Utilizing his skills as a financial planner, his strategic approach to organizational development has been instrumental to PAWS’ growth, plans for future funding and long-range financial viability. His executive oversight provides important leadership to the organization.

Ed and his wife Cindy are the founders and directors of Fat Kitty City, a non-profit organization that rescues, spays, neuters and adopts out cats and dogs, and also provides a home for more than 200 feral cats at their 25 acre sanctuary in Northern California.


Carol Haft**
Carol Haft retired from the California Department of Justice in 2005, after 28 years of public service where she served as an Administrator. Prior to her appointment as Administrator, she was a Latent Print Analyst, processing crime scene fingerprints for law enforcement agencies throughout the state and for the US Treasury Department and the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. Carol has testified as an expert witness in criminal cases in Superior Court for the State of California.

Carol has been volunteering for PAWS for more than two decades, and has served on the board of directors since 2003.


Debbie Morrow**


Debbie Morrow has been part of the PAWS family for more than 14 years — as a volunteer, and later as an employee trained to work as an elephant keeper. As a PAWS volunteer she has worked on building projects, repaired fences, participated in fundraising events, handled security, organized landscaping projects and worked as a docent at the Amanda Blake museum.

In 2007, after 25 years of service, Debbie retired from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. After her retirement she accepted a position working at ARK 2000, where she was trained as an elephant keeper — still volunteering for PAWS in her spare time. She resigned from her keeping job a year later to care for her elderly parents, but continued her volunteer work. She was elected to PAWS' board in May 2013.

Debbie has a therapy dog named Winston. The two of them regularly volunteer their time at Hospice of San Joaquin, Stanislaus Special Olympics and several assisted living facilities. 


Steven Pape**


Steven Pape was a staff accountant with CalPERS Investments before his retirement in 2013. He was responsible for ensuring that all investment income was received and that all security transactions were properly recorded and settled for several billion dollars worth of investments.

Steven previously worked for the State of California in other, mostly audit-oriented positions, beginning with the Office of the Auditor General where he obtained his C.P.A. certification. That was followed by positions as an internal auditor at CalTrans, and the Department of Consumer Affairs, before joining CalPERS in 1998. He holds a B.A. in Physics from Franklin and Marshall College and an M.B.A. from the University of Arizona.

Steven’s involvement with PAWS began in 1992 when he met Pat Derby at Miss Kitty’s Attic in Sacramento. He immediately began volunteering on a regular basis at the PAWS facility in Galt and has helped with many of the fundraising events that have been held during the last 20+ years.


Katia Bagatta**


Katia Bagatta was a sales executive for a large corporation before joining her family's restaurant and catering businesses where she has proven herself in business leadership.

Katia is a long-time PAWS supporter. Her philanthropic efforts have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for PAWS at events she has hosted at her restaurants. In addition, she is a creative and driven animal protection activist and has presented testimony at public meetings held in her city and county on bullhook bans and exotic animal circus bans.


Kevin McCourt**


Kevin has enjoyed a rewarding career as a composer and performer, releasing several solo albums as well as working and touring with award-winning artists from Chuck Berry to Stevie Wonder. His multimedia production company creates original music for CDs, soundtracks, commercials, feature films and movie trailers. Mr. McCourt’s work includes campaigns for Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Toy Story 3D, Pearl Harbor and Starship Troopers Marauder. His work has been featured at the Cannes Film Festival. He is a member of the Ovation Award-winning Troubadour Theater Company, and has served as music advisor on Garry Marshall’s “Pretty Woman: The Musical.”

Kevin, along with his wife, Susan McCourt, founded Project OneSong, a non-profit, humane education adventure that has been partnered with PAWS since 2004. Project OneSong teaches at-risk kids empathy and compassion by introducing them to sanctuary animals. As a way to raise money and awareness for Project OneSong and PAWS, Kevin formed Who Doesn’t Love Kids n’ Pets? – an ALL-STAR, super group of musicians and animal lovers whose roster includes members of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, band mates of Elton John, Ringo Star, Earth, Wind and Fire and a host of others who came together to create catchy, upbeat, from-the-heart songs about what matters to them most — their families and their furry friends.

Kevin and Susan, share their home with a bounty of rescued pets.





*Compensated board member

**Independent voting rights

In Memoriam: the late Pat Derby talks about the latest captive wildlife news at PAWS.


Adopt Alexander
Alexander is a victim of the exotic pet trade. He was purchased as a cub for $2,500 by a family in Texas and chained out in the family backyard. Learn More»

Performing Animal Welfare Society
PO Box 849, Galt, CA 95632

209/745-2606 office/sanctuary
209/745-1809 fax

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