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PAWS Wildlife Sanctuaries

The Performing Animal Welfare Society Wildlife sanctaries are places where abandoned or abused performing animals and victims of the exotic animal trade can live in peace and dignity. For nearly 40 years, PAWS has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide humane sanctuary for surplus animals providing the space, natural habitat and quality of care which they deserve.

PAWS is a true sanctuary – a permanent home where animals come first. PAWS is internationally recognized as a leader in animal welfare – among our greatest concerns are the treatment of animals in traveling shows, animal acts, television and movies; captive breeding, the exotic animal trade and inadequate standards of care for captive wildlife.

Founded in 1984 by former Hollywood animal trainer and author the late Pat Derby, and partner, Ed Stewart, PAWS maintains three sanctuaries for captive wildlife--30 acres in Galt, California, 100 acres (The Amanda Blake Wildlife Refuge) in Herald, California and 2300 acres of pristine, natural habitat in San Andreas, California (ARK 2000).

The story of PAWS began when cofounder, Pat Derby, worked with exotic animals as a trainer on the sets of many popular television shows in the 1970’s (Flipper, Daktari, Gunsmoke, Lassie, Gentle Ben) , Disney and other animal films, and as the trainer and spokesperson for famed Lincoln Mercury car commercial cougars, Chauncey and Christopher. In the process of developing her own training methods based on love instead of fear, Pat was shocked to discover a profession rampant with neglect and abuse. Her autobiography, “Lady and Her Tiger” (Dutton 1976), was the first expose’ of  the harsh training methods and minimal care which were standard in the entertainment industry,

It was during this time that she met Ed Stewart and retired her animals, but stories of abusive training in movies and television prompted them to lobby for legislation which would mandate better standards of care and handling for captive wildlife. In 1984, Pat and Ed moved to Galt, California and established PAWS and the Galt wildlife sanctuary.

Pat Derby has appeared on Entertainment Tonight, The Crusaders, Inside Edition, Nightline, Inside America’s Courts, The World’s Most Dangerous Animals, Dateline, 20/20, Animal Planet, The LeezaShow, Montel Williams, The Today Show, CBS Evening News and other national media educating the public about the need to protect wildlife habitat and to control captive breeding of exotic animal species.

Pat Derby and Ed Stewart have pioneered a method of elephant handling that uses NO bullhooks, weapons or aversive training techniques. PAWS was the first facility to use this “non-dominance” technique successfully, and since 1985, the work of Derby and Stewart has been a model for elephant handlers around the nation and around the world.

As of January 2023, all of the rescued and retired wild animals PAWS cares for are now in one place, our 2,300-acre ARK 2000 sanctuary in San Andreas, California. As a result, our original sanctuary in Galt and the Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge in Herald are now closed. (Our main office will remain at the Galt location indefinitely.) We have long planned for the move which brings our animal family together at one location and begins a new chapter in PAWS’ history.



Pat Derby talks about the latest captive wildlife news at PAWS.



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

(209) 745-2606 office/shelter
(209) 745-1809 fax

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