It is with deep sadness that we report the passing of Pat Derby, the former animal trainer who saw the error of the entertainment industry’s ways and spent the rest of her life helping captive animals by providing them with safe havens at her three spacious Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuaries in California. Pat died at her home on Friday.
Pat assisted PETA with many of our campaigns, most recently by providing Ben, the bear we pried out of the clutches of the abysmal Jambbas Ranch, with a permanent home. I defy you not to tear up at footage of Ben splashing happily in a pond at a PAWS sanctuary after spending years in a cramped, barren cage:
In 2007, PAWS also opened its gates to Maggie, a wild-caught African elephant who spent 24 years largely confined to a concrete barn at the Alaska Zoo—10 of those years alone after the zoo’s other elephant died. Maggie reportedly collapsed twice in one week and had to be hoisted to her feet with the aid of a winch. She was then suspended in a sling to prevent her from collapsing again. After years of pressure from PETA, the zoo finally allowed her to be moved to a more suitable climate and to live in the company of other elephants, and she has been thriving since her move to PAWS.
PAWS is also home to Nicholas and Gypsy, the last two elephants of the 16 the Hawthorn Corporation was forced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to relinquish after PETA filed repeated complaints with the agency about abuse and neglect at Hawthorn. PETA continues to keep up the pressure on Hawthorn, a supplier of animals to circuses, since it still has tigers and other animals in its custody.
On behalf of Ben, Maggie, Nicholas, Gypsy, and so many others, we thank Pat for her lifelong crusade. Pat may be gone, but her spirit lives on—as do the animals—in the heaven that she created here on Earth.