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Privacy Policy for the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) PAWS assures unambiguously that: (1) PAWS will not trade, share or sell a donor’s personal information with anyone else, nor send donor mailings on behalf of other organizations. (2) In special circumstances, PAWS will only share personal information once the donor has given PAWS specific permission to do so.

Since 1984, The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide appropriate, humane sanctuary for animals who have been the victims of the exotic and performing animal trades. PAWS investigates reports of abused performing and exotic animals, documents cruelty and assists in investigations and prosecutions by regulatory agencies to alleviate the suffering of captive wildlife.



The five elephant habitats at ARK 2000 provide the elephants with hundreds of acres of varied natural terrain to roam, lakes and pools to bathe in, and elephant barns equipped with heated stalls and a indoor therapy pool.
Learn More »





Above: African elephant Toka


It had to begin with elephants. . .

PAWS 2019: 35 Years of

Elephant Advocacy and Care

As we look back over the last 35 years, there’s no arguing that elephants have always been a big part of PAWS’ work for captive wildlife. We have cared for 19 elephants throughout the years and advocated on behalf of many, many more. As the late Pat Derby, PAWS’ co-founder together with Ed Stewart, once wrote, “It had to begin with elephants. . .”

In 1986, PAWS established itself as the first elephant sanctuary in the United States with the rescue of a sickly female calf named “71” who was captured in Zimbabwe after her mother and family members were slaughtered in a cull. She was part of a large group of elephant calves imported to the U.S. in the 1980s by a fitness equipment magnate who kept the calves on his sprawling Florida property – and later sold them off to zoos and circuses. 71 was very ill, extremely underweight, and, without Pat and Ed’s intervention, most likely would have died. Sadly, 71 succumbed to pancreatitis in 2009, a condition linked to her early health problems and lack of proper nutrition.

Mara (pictured left with 71, circa 1992) was the next elephant to find sanctuary at PAWS in 1990, saved from being sold to a circus. She was followed by Tammy and Annie, two aging Asian elephants from the Milwaukee Zoo. PAWS had exposed a gruesome training video made by the zoo for which Tammy and Annie were tied down with ropes and chains and cruelly beaten – repeatedly struck by keepers using heavy bullhooks and baseball bats. The ensuing controversy led to their transfer to PAWS in 1995.

Many more elephants found sanctuary at PAWS, each with their own story to tell (far too many to impart in this article!), such as Asian elephant Gypsy who spent nearly 40 years in the circus and African elephant Maggie, who was the only elephant in Alaska – both arrived in 2007. Our first bull elephant, Nicholas (left), also came to PAWS in 2007. PAWS remains the only sanctuary to care for bull elephants.

Advocacy efforts on behalf of elephants run throughout PAWS’ history – and continue today. In 1985 PAWS was the first organization in the country to investigate and obtain undercover video of circus animal abuse. In 1988, Pat Derby served on the Elephant Task Force, a committee formed by a California state senator in response to the horrific beating of African elephant Dunda at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. This resulted in passage of an elephant protection law that prohibited certain abusive practices.

Over the years, PAWS has launched nationwide campaigns aimed at ending the use of elephants in traveling shows and circuses, investigated elephant abuse, and presented testimony at special hearings in Washington, DC. We’ve been fortunate to work alongside longtime friends such as Emmy Award-winning television star Bob Barker and Academy Award-winning actress Kim Basinger.

Above: In 2015, PAWS' President Ed Stewart was a featured speaker at a rally held on the steps of California's State Capitol. Joining PAWS was "CSI" television star Jorja Fox and Gina Kinzley, lead elephant keeper at the Oakland Zoo. The day was all about elephants and two elephant protection bills before the legislature.

Always focused on our aim of ending the abuse of elephants, no matter where they may be confined or made to perform, PAWS set its sights on ending the use of elephant bullhooks. We helped drive the Los Angeles ban on bullhooks, signed into law in 2014, followed by a ban in Oakland, California – the first major U.S. cities to enact restrictions on major circuses. These actions set the stage for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to end its elephant acts in 2016 and then shut down forever in 2017.

PAWS co-sponsored the successful statewide prohibition on elephant bullhooks in California and teamed up to prohibit bullhooks in Rhode Island. We’ve actively contributed to other groundbreaking legislation, including prohibitions on the use of elephants in circuses in Illinois and New York State, a ban on wild animals in circuses in New York City, and the recent bans on wild animal acts in New Jersey and Hawaii.

With an eye to the future, PAWS has provided expert affidavits for groundbreaking legal cases by the Nonhuman Rights Project that aim for recognition of legal personhood for captive elephants.

PAWS is dedicated to doing everything we can for captive elephants: We provide hope for a better life by providing lifelong care, spacious environments, and a more natural life at our 2,300-acre ARK 2000 sanctuary, opened in 2002. We also hold out hope for a better future by fighting to end elephant abuse, exploitation, breeding, and, ultimately, their captivity. At the same time, we work to impress upon everyone the urgency of protecting elephants and their habitats in Asia and Africa.

Thank you for joining us on this very worthy journey!

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PAWS' Innovative Outreach Program Welcomes Back College Students

PAWS is again offering Wild Animals in Captivity: Exploring the Interface Between Humans and Wildlife, a half-day learning experience for college professors and their classes. The program takes place at PAWS’ 2,300-acre ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary in San Andreas, California, home to rescued or retired elephants, bears, and big cats.

The program explores the links between captivity, animal use, and larger wildlife issues. It is designed for, but not limited to, those interested in areas such as human-animal studies, animal welfare and behavior, biology, environmental studies, animal law, education, and conservation. The aim is to motivate students to think more deeply about the interface of humans and nature as defined by our interactions with wild animals in circuses, zoos, private menageries, and when kept as exotic pets – and inspire them to make a difference. To date, the response from students and professors has been enthusiastic.

Wild Animals in Captivity: Exploring the Interface Between Humans and Wildlife is offered through December; dates are limited. The course will take place again from February through June 2020. Professors are invited to bring interested students, free of charge.

For more information, contact PAWS Director of Science, Research and Advocacy Catherine Doyle at

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Tiger Pharaoh Passes Away

It is with tremendous sadness that we share the news that our dear Pharaoh has passed away.

Pharaoh was the second oldest of eight tigers who came to ARK 2000 in late 2016 after a notorious Colorado roadside zoo was shut down and all animals at the compound needed placement. The facility repeatedly bred big cats and bears to produce a steady stream of cubs for public handling and photo sessions. Cubs were taken from their mothers while small and still nursing, and were subjected to long periods of rough handling, followed by neglect and further breeding when they quickly grew too large to handle.

When Pharaoh first arrived at PAWS he was underweight, nervous, and aggressive towards people. Tiger supervisor Renae spent extra time observing and caring for him, and little by little he began to trust her and feel calm in her presence. We gradually increased the amount of nutritious food he was offered daily, but he did not gain weight and he appeared unusually hungry, considering the large meals he was eating.

After allowing Pharaoh time to settle in and become familiar and comfortable in his new home, our veterinary team performed a comprehensive anesthetized examination and diagnosed a malabsorption syndrome that was not allowing his body to absorb nutrients properly. He responded well to treatment for this condition and started gaining weight. Soon he looked like a different tiger altogether, with muscle tone, a lustrous coat, and, best of all, his anxiety disappeared and his appetite was no longer insatiable.

Pharaoh flourished under the expert care of our tiger staff. He enjoyed the peaceful setting of ARK 2000, surrounded by the sights, smells, and sounds of nature instead of the near-constant gawking, loud human noises, and close confinement of his previous life. His favorite things to rub on and play with were pumpkins and Christmas trees, and he loved the water so much he could be found in his pool daily, even in winter. When he heard his favorite person Renae approaching, Pharaoh would wait at the front of his den area to say hello - with more than the usual friendly "chuff." He would talk loudly and rub his body along the fence to express his affection.

Pharaoh passed away unexpectedly in the early morning hours of September 20th. He was 16. He had shown no signs of illness or discomfort. A necropsy was performed at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine in hopes of finding out the cause of his death. The results are pending.

Pharaoh was deeply loved here at PAWS, and we are grateful for the opportunity to provide him a safe and peaceful home for almost three years. He will be greatly missed.


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PAWS' co-founder, the late Pat Derby, and African elephant 71, walking through the hills at ARK 2000. Pat and Ed rescued 71 in 1986; she was PAWS' founding elephant. 71 died in 2008 - read about her here.

Pat Derby: A Life Dedicated

to Protecting Captive Wildlife

Pat Derby, co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, was a champion for captive wild and exotic animals, particularly those used in “entertainment.” Working side by side with her partner, current PAWS’ president and co-founder Ed Stewart, they set a new standard of care for captive wildlife, including establishing the first elephant sanctuary in the U.S. Sadly, Pat lost a long battle with cancer and passed away on February 15, 2013. But her spirit continues to live in PAWS’ rescue, sanctuary, and advocacy work.

Pat’s bravery and vision for a better life for captive wildlife helped lay the groundwork for the profound changes we are seeing today, including the public’s increasing rejection of the use of wild animals in entertainment, whether elephants and tigers in circuses or orcas in marine parks, and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus coming to an end. Her battle against the use of cruel elephhant bullhooks has resulted in statewide bans in California and Rhode Island, with PAWS playing an integral role in their passage.

Pat remains an inspiration to everyone at PAWS and to the greater animal protection community. Her determination and fighting spirit continue to drive PAWS’ efforts to create a more just and humane world for captive wild animals, each and every day.


At PAWS Sanctuaries rescued animals live in peaceful, natural habitats, free from fear, chains, and harsh confinement. They are at complete liberty to act out natural behaviors in the comfort of their individually designed enclosures. PAWS' animals are not bred, traded, sold, rented or forced to perform in any way. PAWS educates the entertainment industry, public officials and the general public in humane care and treatment of captive wildlife.

Through our public awareness campaigns, more and more actively concerned individuals are becoming aware of the problems inherent in the breeding of wildlife in captivity and the use of animals in entertainment. Learn More »





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Above: Ben the Bear arrived at PAWS in August 2012. Rescued from a roadside zoo in North Carolina, this is Ben today in his habitat at PAWS' ARK 2000 sanctuary. Thanks to generous friends who went shopping on PAWS' Amazon Wish List, he now has a big, new, bright red, heavy-duty Boomer Ball to play with!


Working Together to Help Captive Wildlife: The Story of Ben the Bear

Often, it takes a team of people to help captive wild animals in need. The rescue of Ben, an 18-year-old bear living in the Bob Barker Bear Habitat at PAWS’ ARK 2000 sanctuary, is the perfect example. It took concerned citizens, attorneys from leading animal protection organizations, a judge, and FedEx to deliver Ben to his forever home at PAWS seven years ago.

A life of deprivation

To see Ben today, you wouldn’t begin to guess the horrors of his previous life as a roadside attraction. Identified only as “Attraction no. 2”, for six years he was confined in a 12x22-foot chain link “kennel” (left) with only a concrete floor to walk on. His meals usually consisted of dry dog food, and they were dumped on the very same floor where he urinated and defecated. Ben spent hours repeatedly pacing back and forth, the result of living in utterly deprived conditions. His only distractions were occasional passers-by, a bowling ball, and a few pieces of rotting wood.

The legal team
Fortunately, two local citizens and attorneys from PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund came to Ben’s aid. In 2012, they filed suit against the facility holding Ben, Jambbas Ranch Tours in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The facility already had numerous citations for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Cumberland County District Judge Kimbrell Tucker heard the case and wisely recognized that Ben’s most basic needs were not being met. The judge issued a preliminary injunction that allowed Ben’s transfer to PAWS and later made it permanent. (Jambbas Ranch Tours shut down after additional legal action resulted in suspension of its exhibition license.)

The transport team
The transport team, including PAWS President Ed Stewart and the late Dr. Mel Richardson, DVM, traveled to North Carolina to retrieve Ben and safely bring him to our sanctuary. That’s where another very important member of Ben’s team – FedEx – came in. PAWS is forever grateful to the company for transporting him to California on a plane the flight crew happily dubbed “Bear Force One.”

The sanctuary team
As we’ve said so many times, the rescue of a captive wild animal is just the beginning. It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since Ben first stepped into his new habitat – possibly walking on grass for the very first time in his life. Thanks to legendary animal activist and television star Bob Barker, today Ben spends his days immersed in nature (above), walking among shady trees and vegetation, foraging throughout the day, napping when he pleases, and exploring the spacious Bob Barker Bear Habitat. A team of PAWS caregivers sees to it that Ben has everything he needs: a nutritious diet, daily attention, an enriched environment, a visit from the veterinarian when necessary, 24/7 monitoring, and the love and respect he deserves.

Thanks to your support, PAWS stands ready to assemble our team once again to rescue a wild animal in need – animals like Ben, who need and deserve so much better.

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The Importance of True Sanctuary

By Catherine Doyle

PAWS Director of Science, Research and Advocacy

I recently heard about a comment made by a zoo employee, who said that PAWS’ ARK 2000 sanctuary is “just a bigger zoo.” My immediate response was: How superficial! That person really doesn’t understand what a sanctuary is all about. Obviously, space is important, especially when you’re caring for the planet’s largest land mammal. Elephants need room to move and stay healthy. But there are many factors that distinguish PAWS from other captive institutions.

Animals come first

We are here to serve the wild animals in our care; their welfare is our primary concern. PAWS holds the highest standards of care for the animals, provided by a dedicated caregiver staff and veterinary team. The animals are cared for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and treated with the respect they deserve.

Different role of confinement

At ARK 2000 we use confinement to protect and better serve the animals, rather than control and display them for human amusement. PAWS openly acknowledges that even the greatly improved conditions we provide are still not enough to meet the needs of wild animals. As PAWS President Ed Stewart has said, "The only “state of the art” place for elephants, bears, big cats and other animals is the wild."

Safe haven for life

A true captive wildlife sanctuary does not breed, buy, trade, sell or otherwise exploit animals. The animals who come to ARK 2000 will remain in our care for the rest of their lives. Important social bonds are respected and will remain undisturbed.

Focus on the individual

Our animals do not perform, and the public is never in direct contact with them – no selfies, feeding, or other so-called “educational” encounters. PAWS' focus is on the individual for the sake of that animal only. They are not ambassadors for their species nor are they on display to send a message. If there is any message, it is that the situations these animals were rescued from, and the abuse and deprivations some of them suffered, should not be allowed to exist.

Dynamic spaces

Larger spaces allow for more environmental complexity and more choice for the animals, whether it is engaging in self-directed activities or choosing to be closer to or farther from companions. At ARK 2000 the animals are immersed in complex natural areas that change with the seasons, effecting different behavioral opportunities and sensory experiences.

Quiet of nature

A large, natural habitat sanctuary offers subtle benefits: the quiet of living in nature, more intrusion-free lives, the relaxation that comes from no longer being exposed to the pressures of close confinement and social stress, privacy, and expanded visual, auditory and olfactory experiences.

Emphasis on rehabilitation

PAWS strives to help elephants be elephants, tigers be tigers, and bears be bears. Natural environments filled with grass, shady trees, bushes and lakes allow the animals to actively engage in instinctive behaviors such as foraging, swimming, exploring, climbing, socializing, or simply napping in the sun. Our patient and caring staff is there to support the animals and enable their remarkable transformation to the vibrant and thriving animals they are today.

View of captivity

PAWS seeks to create a deeper understanding of the problematic nature of captivity for wild animals and works to end the systems of abuse and exploitation that have created the need for sanctuaries to begin with. Captivity is not normal and we should not idealize it, even with the best of conditions. Wild animals belong in the wild, protected and respected.

As you can see, PAWS is much, much more than just a “bigger zoo.” It is a place that offers a new lease on life for the elephants, big cats, bears and other wild animals currently in our care – and those yet to come. It is also a place where each animal is respected as an individual with her or his own inherent value, and whose welfare and needs will always come first.

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Thank you Amazon "Wish List" Donors

OCTOBER DONORS - Saul Cervantes: one 25 lb. bag of peanuts in the shell. Carole Bognar: one bottle CosequinDS, 132#. Ben Sun: one Probiocin. Debbie Kelly: one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium; one 25 lb. bag of peanuts in the shell. Linda Starr: one 10 lb. tub of Psyllium. Thomas C. Dickson: two 25 lb. bags of peanuts in the shell. Martha Lawler, Kim Marie Campbell: two 24-packs of AA batteries. Patricia D. Adler Cartozian: one bottle of Renal Essentials, 60#; one Probiocin; one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium; one 5 lb. bag of Missing Link. Ryan and Lynn Coplen: one CranAnidin, 75#; two Presto Pop Lite popcorn poppers; two 5 lb. bags of Missing Link. Anonymous Donors: two 25 lb. bags of peanuts in the shell; 10 bottles of Emcelle Tocopherol.

NOVEMBER DONORS - Carole Bognar: one bottle of CosequinDS, 132#; one Probiocin. Nancy Gordon: six bottles of Renal Essentials, 60#. Linda Starr: one bag of Pill Pockets, 60#; one box of Denamarin, 30#; one 20 lb. tub of Psyllium. Joy L. Holman: one five lb. tub of Psyllium. Joy Parker Lee: one five lb. tub of Psyllium. Leslie Hafemeister: one Probiocin. Ryan Coplen: two 10 lb. bags of Missing Link Skin & Coat. Anonymous Donors: two boxes of Denamarin, 30#; one 10 lb. bag of Missing Link Skin & Coat.



View wish list items that are needed, but not included on our Amazon list here.

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

(209) 745-2606 Office/Sanctuary
(209) 745-1809 fax

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