Elephant move on hold for a month

May 01, 2002 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

The Performing Animal Welfare Society will delay moving elephants to its new Ark 2000 campus in San Andreas until mid-June — allowing time for a video-surveillance security system to be installed.

Pat Derby, co-founder of animal-rights group PAWS, said vandals glued shut six locks on a secondary gate at the 2,300-acre refuge "five or six" times and she does not want to move any animals into a potentially unsafe situation.

The gate provides emergency access to firefighters.

"That kind of vandalism disturbs us. We want to be able, if something like that occurs, to identify the people and have them prosecuted," she said.

The park's front gate, overseen by a hidden camera, operates mechanically and has not been vandalized, Derby said.

"It's a blessing that we discovered this before we moved the elephants there," Derby said. The society's planned move to the Mother Lode has not been smooth.

PAWS, which rescues animals from abusive situations — often from circuses, zoos and hunting ranches — planned to move two elephants to its new San Andreas refuge on April 15 with more to follow.

But the move was postponed while PAWS filed a lawsuit against Calaveras County residents John Ham and Kevin Krantz of San Andreas, Frank Eckblom of the Daily News and its publishing company. Ham owns acreage on the north side of the PAWS property.

The lawsuit alleges instances of harassment and business interference against the three.

Derby said Ham has complained to the Calaveras County Planning Department and other agencies almost daily. His complaints, Derby said, kept the Planning Commission from giving her organization permission to move the elephants.

Ham said PAWS failed to modify its conditional use permit after it bought additional property.