Diagnosed with throat cancer in July of 2010, Pat fought her way through radiation and chemotherapy and continued to deal with side effects from treatment — all the while continuing to run the animal welfare organization she and Ed Stewart founded in 1984. In the fall of 2012 came the news that cancer had returned, this time in her liver.
Pat and Ed chose to keep this last fight a private matter. We honored their wishes. Pat died peacefully in her home at ARK 2000, PAWS' 2,300-acre sanctuary in San Andreas, CA. Ed Stewart, her partner of 37 years, was by her side.
It is impossible for us to imagine a world without Pat Derby — PAWS without Pat Derby — but she chose, and trained, her support team well, and under the leadership of Ed Stewart, Pat's dreams and visions will be kept alive, her advocacy for animals will continue and PAWS will move forward.
Pat Derby was a partner, leader, mentor, teacher and friend. She was the first to champion the cause of performing animals, and today, because of her tireless work, and fierce determination, most animal protection organizations now have captive wildlife programs that address the issues of performing animals. She also built the first elephant sanctuary in the United States.
Pat Derby’s advocacy for animals began more than 36 years ago when she began working with captive wildlife as a Hollywood animal trainer in movies and television commercials. She was the trainer and spokesperson for famed Lincoln Mercury "Sign of the Cat" cougars Chauncey and Christopher, at one time, one of the most recognized advertising symbols in the world. While working on television series such as Gunsmoke, Lassie, Daktari, and Flipper, she witnessed, first-hand, the neglect and abuse prevalent in animal training. Determined to bring attention to the problem, and to initiate better standards of care and handling for performing animals, Pat chronicled her adventures in her first book, The Lady and Her Tiger, an exposé on the treatment of performing animals.
Pat did not see the modern animal rights movement coming when The Lady & Her Tiger became one of the books that launched it. Published by E.P. Dutton in May 1976, six months after Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, and 20 months after Cleveland Amory’s Man Kind?, The Lady & Her Tiger won an American Library Association award and was a Book of the Month Club selection. Reissued as a Ballentine paperback in 1977, The Lady & Her Tiger ensured that the treatment of performing animals was prominent on the animal rights agenda, but Pat remained a Hollywood animal trainer for another eight years.
Pat met Ed Stewart in 1976, and the two spent the next few years promoting The Lady & Her Tiger with television appearances on the Today Show, the Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show and other national media outlets. After extensive lecture tours for national humane societies, the two were persuaded to form their own organization to protect performing animals and captive wildlife. They formed the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in 1984.
In 1985, Pat and Ed moved to Galt, a small northern California town south of Sacramento. They immediately began lobbying for state standards for the care of captive wildlife. That year their first bill, AB 1620, was signed into law. Because of the critical need for experienced care providers for abused and abandoned captive wildlife, they opened their first wildlife sanctuary, in Galt, that year.
Today PAWS maintains three sanctuaries for captive wildlife in Northern California, providing refuge for more than 100 animals, including elephants, lions, tigers, bears, bobcat, lynx, serval, coyote, leopard, mountain lion, oryx, eland, deer and monkeys. PAWS’ ARK 2000, a 2,300-acre wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas, CA, is home to lions, tigers, bears and elephants, and is the only sanctuary in the country to house bull elephants.
Under the leadership of Pat Derby and Ed Stewart, PAWS has always 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.
As a recognized expert on the care of captive wildlife, Pat testified before Congress twice and served on several state committees setting standards for the care and handling of elephants and other exotic species. She was a charter member serving on the California Department of Fish and Game's Committee for the Humane Care of Captive Wildlife.
PAWS’ was the first elephant sanctuary in the United States. Pat Derby and Ed Stewart pioneered a method of elephant handling that uses NO bull hooks, 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 world.