Tickets are now on sale for a Holiday Open House, planned for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday at the ARK 2000 sanctuary in San Andreas.

The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) cares for African and Asian elephants, bears, tigers, lions and a black leopard at the 2,300-acre retirement home for animals that were once used in the entertainment industry. Founded by Ed Stewart and the late Pat Derby in 1984, PAWS initially rescued animals that were discarded after their use in various entertainment media. Derby once trained the Lincoln-Mercury cougars used in the automaker’s commercials, and worked on television shows such as “Flipper,” “Lassie” and “Gentle Ben.” Since its founding, PAWS has rescued many animals that were illegally transported to or bred in the United States.

Visitors to the ARK 2000 Holiday Open House board shuttle buses that transport them to the bear, big cat and elephant habitats. Visitors are reminded that upon departing the buses, there is a lot of walking on grass, dirt, gravel and sometimes paved surfaces, “so please wear comfortable shoes,” says a release.

PAWS caretakers and volunteers are onsite to explain how the animals are cared for and to answer guests’ questions. A gift shop is also part of the event, where PAWS merchandise can be purchased.

“If you would like to bring a holiday gift for the animals, we suggest any of the following favorites: apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, squash, pumpkins, melons, pears, unsalted peanuts in the shells, fresh mint leaves and fresh rosemary,” the release added. “You may drop off your gift by the front gate or near the gift shop table when you arrive, or as you’re leaving.”

PAWS management emphasizes the fact that there is absolutely no contact with any of the animals at the facility that was dedicated in 2002.

Tickets for the open house at ARK 2000, on Pool Station Road in San Andreas, are $50 for adults and $35 for seniors ages 65 and older and children ages 12 and under at or 745-2606 (the Galt office). Ticket sales close Thursday, if the event has not sold out, and no tickets are sold at the gate on Saturday.

The event happens rain or shine, and tickets are not refundable.

Contact Mike Taylor at


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