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Executive Director

Founder and Executive Director – Pat Craig.  Pat began saving captive wildlife after learning that thousands of “surplus” Lions, Tigers, Bears and other animals were being kept in tiny cages in the back of zoos all across the country – with many being euthanized on a daily basis. Pat set out on a mission to help save these animals by building a small rescue facility on his family farm outside Boulder, CO. At age 19, Pat became the youngest state and federally licensed Zoological Director in the country, as well as the first person to build a sanctuary dedicated to saving large carnivores and other exotic animals.

Pat’s vision has led 44 years later to the oldest and largest nonprofit sanctuary in the world dedicated to rescuing captive exotic and endangered animals that have been abused, abandoned, exploited or illegally kept. In 2021, Pat recognized the need to help save wild horses that were being removed from long-established wild horse management areas within Colorado.  He subsequently created the largest captive wild horse sanctuary in the United States by opening a 23,000-acre Refuge in northwest Colorado for the state’s dwindling population of Mustangs.

Pat’s many decades of experience in captive wild animal rescue, transportation, behavior, and sanctuary development have led to his becoming the nation’s leading expert in the field. He also spent many years rescuing Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) horses from Canada in the late 1980's and early 1990's and has continued to rescue horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, goats and other domestic farm animals while operating three separate exotic animal sanctuaries that encompass 11,214-acres in Colorado and Texas.

Pat lectures nationally on captive wildlife rescue and transportation, as well as great cat behaviors and diets, and has worked tirelessly toward better protection for these animals. He works together with government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, as well as many other state and national agencies in the never-ending fight to help animals in need. Pat has also worked with Canadian, Mexican, Spanish, Bolivian, Uruguayan, Panamanian, Peruvian, Lebanese, Korean, Romanian, Ukrainian and Puerto Rican government agencies on large and extremely complicated rescues from within their countries.

Pat oversees and participates in all Sanctuary operations, including national and international rescues, and has spent decades designing, building and operating specialized rescue equipment for large carnivores and wild horses.  As a result, Pat currently manages the largest fleet of exotic and wild animal rescue equipment in the country.  Both Pat and the Sanctuary have received numerous Emmy Awards for the production of world-class educational videos concerning the Captive Wildlife Crisis - and in 2024 - Pat’s life-long work saving animals was featured in a 60 Minutes News story referring to him as a modern-day Noah.  His ability to handle large rescues in dangerous and demanding situations, and to also safely transport wild animals great distances, is widely known among law enforcement and animal welfare agencies in U.S.

Pat has a BS in Education from the University of Northern Colorado and has received prominent recognition from many sources.  His awards include a United States Secretary of Agriculture Honor Award for above and beyond service to the USDA, as well as a American Veterinary Medical Association award for distinguished service to animals, and an American Humane Association Award for leading their largest exotic animal rescue mission.  Pat also received an E-Chievement Award from the E-Town Environmental Radio Show and was a finalist in Animal Planet’s “Hero of the Year” awards selection.


Michelle McGraw

Chief Administration Officer

Michelle McGraw’s profound love for animals is evident in every aspect of her work. She has played a pivotal role in the organization's mission to rescue and provide lifelong homes for animals in need with her ability to foster a performance-driven environment. Through her unwavering commitment, she has contributed significantly to the sanctuary's growth, and proven herself to be a passionate advocate.

Michelle's expertise extends beyond her passion for animals. Prior to her taking over the top administration position at TWAS, Michelle’s professional expertise served the organization well with the extensive time she served as the Director of Development at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. With a highly successful background in non-profit development, Michelle brings a unique blend of skills that have greatly benefited the organization. Her strategic thinking, fundraising acumen, and ability to forge meaningful partnerships have helped the organization secure the resources necessary to continue its vital work.



Chief Science and Welfare Officer

Becca Miceli has been working with the animals at The Wild Animal Sanctuary for more than 19 years.  During that timeframe, Becca has served in every capacity imaginable in order to help the animals we rescue.  Becca has a degree in Non-Profit Management from Metropolitan State University of Denver School of Business and is a Registered Veterinary Technician.  Having cared for and treated over 600 Lions, Tigers, Bears, Wolves and other large carnivores during her time with the Sanctuary, Becca is by far the most experienced large carnivore medical technician in the country. 


As Director of Animal Care, Becca oversees a full time animal care staff of nine, as well as more than 160 volunteers that routinely work with her staff to ensure each and every animal living at the Sanctuary is being given the best possible care and species-specific treatment.  Becca ensures each animal’s overall accommodations and rehabilitation program has been dialed-in to help them live a long, happy and exceedingly healthy life with us

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Dr. Rachel Braun

Sanctuary Veterinarian

Dr. Rachel Braun is from the Midwest originally, but has called Denver home for several years. She graduated from the University of Dayton with a BS in Biology, and then the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine with her DVM degree. She spent several years in general practice, and has a background in wildlife medicine as well. She has always had a passion for big cats. She has two rescue greyhounds, Kallie and Emmie, as well as a rescue Maltese, Jolene, and cat, Bingley.

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Dr. Mikaela Vetters

Refuge Veterinarian

Dr. Vetters has been working with and treating exotic animals for many years in numerous capacities with large national animal welfare organizations. Dr. Vetters has worked in various domestic and exotic animal facilities within the United States. 

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Dr. Valerie Johnson

Sanctuary Veterinarian

Dr. Johnson is a critical care veterinarian with a strong background in exotic species and wildlife. She received her PhD in 2020 at Colorado State University. During her 10 years at CSU she developed a protocol to grow mesenchymal stem cells from blood from elephants and giraffes and have treated multiple exotic species including elephants, giraffes, large felids, bears, monkeys, Sichuan takin and multiple other species. 


Over the past ten years Dr. Johnson has been investigating the effects of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) as a therapeutic modality for various disease processes including multidrug resistant infections, immune-mediated disease and arthritis.  She has worked with animal models trying to elucidate the mechanisms by which these cells exert a therapeutic effect and additionally have participated in several clinical trials in dogs and exotic species with a variety of inflammatory diseases including multidrug resistant infections and osteoarthritis.  

The Sanctuary's Staff

Animal Care

Office, Development & Accounting

Communications, Volunteering & Information Technology

Welcome Center Associates

Food Transport

Operations Team

Snack Bars

Gift Shop

Ice Cream Shop

Lion's Den Cafe

The Sanctuary's Board of Directors

Toni Scalera

Board Chair

Toni Scalera- Independent - current Term 1/2023-1/2025

Toni has been saving and advocating for animals all her life.  She began volunteering at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in 1999, and after seven years of working with every aspect of the Sanctuary's operations, became its first Director of Development & Public Affairs in 2006.  After serving in that position for many years, Toni relocated to California to be near her family, but has remained involved with TWAS by representing the Sanctuary's interests from afar.  Now working as Legal Administration Manager of the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund on the west coast, Toni continues to bring a wealth of experience to TWAS, including funding, public and legislative affairs, donor relations, operations, rescues, and animal care.  Having graduated from Florida State University with a BA  Honors degree in commercial art, Toni has parlayed her creativity into a variety of ways to serve the animals, and she is honored to continue serving the animals as TWAS Board Chair.

Toni Scalera

Board Chair

Dr. Ashley Malmlov


Dr. Ashley Malmlov –  Independent - current Term 1/2022-1/2024

Like most people integral to the management of TWAS, Ashley started as a volunteer. In 2006, she was hired in administration, and managed the Sanctuary’s Adoption and Pledge programs. With her background as a Vet Tech, Ashley took the first opportunity available to work in animal care. In 2008, Ashley was accepted in to the Colorado State University Veterinary Program, and graduated in 2012. Ashley is currently continuing her education at CSU with a microbiology residency, as well as volunteering at the Sanctuary helping treat our large carnivores. Ashley brings a variety of related experiences to TWAS’ board.

George Ellis


George Ellis –  Independent - current Term 1/2022-1/2024

George is a supervisor for the Boulder Housing Management in Boulder, CO, and has spent more than 38 years specializing in construction and carpentry, and has acquired numerous advanced certifications. George has been heavily involved in The Wild Animal Sanctuary since its inception in 1980, with animal care and rescues, as well as in the construction of animal housing, rescue/transport cages, large animal enclosures, habitats and visitor infrastructure and large observation decks. Throughout the Sanctuary’s growth and evolution, George has been a stalwart presence in saving captive wildlife.


Joe Spahn


Joe Spahn - Independent - Current Term: 01/01/2023 - 01/01/2025 Joe pursued his course of undergraduate studies at Northern Illinois University, majoring in Social Theory and Philosophy. After receiving his Magna Cum Laude Bachelor's degree, with University Honors, he entered the Graduate School of Computer Science. Riding the leading edge of the Personal Computer Revolution after moving to Denver, he moved from programming and systems analysis to automating billing and insurance for medical and dental practices. After spending several years with wholesale computer products distributors, he worked for several computer product manufactures, managing their distribution channels, both domestically and internationally. Joe’s involvement with the Sanctuary began in 2007, leveraging large in kind donations to the organization. After retirement from Brother Mobile Solutions in 2016, Joe has been volunteering weekly in Kennesburg, and making bi-monthly visits to also work at The Wild Animal Refuge. 

Maria McCann-Glover


Maria McCann-Glover - Independent - current Term 1/2023-1/2025  Maria McCann is a professional actress, business owner and mother of two that lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.  Maria Graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA and has maintained a long and highly successful career within the motion picture industry, as well as acting on stage, in television series, commercials and other professional mediums.  Maria has been involved with supporting The Wild Animal Sanctuary in many ways for numerous years, including donating her talent toward several Captive Wildlife Crisis education projects.  She continues to be an outspoken advocate for animal welfare and our organization within her industry and on many other fronts.

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