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From small screen to big-time activism, advocate shares passion for animals

Anne Kallas Contributor for the Ventura County Star

Published 9:30 AM PT, June 18, 2016

ROB VARELA/THE STAR Beverlee McGrath bottle feeds one of the three raccoons she is caring for in her Oxnard home. (Photo: Rob Varela)

ROB VARELA/THE STAR Beverlee McGrath feeds a tree squirrel in a pen on the grounds of her home in Oxnard. (Photo: Rob Varela)


McGrath uses a syringe to feed special formula to a baby cottontail bunny in the kitchen of her home in Oxnard. (Photo: Rob Varela)

ROB VARELA/THE STAR Beverlee McGrath looks for tree squirrels to feed on the grounds of her home in Oxnard. (Photo: Rob Varela)


Beverlee McGrath found her way into animal activism on the set of a TV show.

She played Lady Godiva in the 1960s television series 'The Greatest Show on Earth,' a short-lived Desilu production that starred Jack Palance. McGrath, an Oxnard resident, said she saw how the large cats were treated on the show about a circus.

'The animals are heavily tranquilized and in inhumane situations,' said McGrath, who acted under the name Beverly or Beverlee Reed.

She went on to become the western regional director for the Doris Day Animal League and the Nevada state director for the Humane Society of the United States among other roles.

In California, McGrath's efforts have included lobbying for legislation requiring the use of alternatives to animal testing for cosmetics and household items, adding agents to antifreeze to make them unpalatable to animals and banning the sale of dogs younger than 8 weeks.

McGrath, who is married to retired Superior court Judge Charles McGrath, has become a tireless lobbyist who not only works to pass bills through the California Legislature, but has also been singled out for recognition by the state of Nevada.

Nevada's Legislature passed a proclamation honoring her efforts, establishing May 31, 2015 as Beverlee McGrath Day.

Endless energy

Coming in from errands on a recent weekday morning, Charles McGrath said he supports his wife's efforts. The couple met while she was working as a singer in a nightclub in Las Vegas. They were married in 1961. Her work with animals started around this time.

'I'm very proud of her. I admire her energy,' he said, adding that he also loves animals, especially the horses he can no longer ride because of a bad back.

Because of Beverlee's demanding schedule — she feeds the rabbits every 90 minutes and the raccoons every three hours — the couple enjoys staying home watching British movies on television.

As president of Paw Political Action Committee, McGrath is currently keeping close tabs on various pieces of legislation going through the California Legislature, including a bill banning the use of bull hooks or other devices, such as baseball bats, to inflict pain on elephants, a gill-net bill that would phase out the nets that often catch and kill unwanted marine life only to be left in the ocean, and a beehive bill that would make it a civil action to 'wrongfully and willfully' destroy hives or kill bees.'

'I track all the Legislature, writing letters of opposition and others of encouragement,' McGrath said, adding that she also informs a large network of others through emails and other media about animal-rights issues.

In her backyard, she has a pool set up to receive baby sea lions and seals, but was unable to secure the necessary permits to rehabilitate the animals, even though she lives very close to the ocean.

McGrath said that over the past 30 years she has seen a shift in how people interact with animals.

'What has helped the most in making animal cruelty a crime are television ads by the pet food industry showing animals living in clean homes. It's done a lot to change the awareness of how important animals can be as members of the family,' she said.

For information about McGrath's legislative issues, email her at For information about wildlife rescue, call the California Wildlife Center at 310-458-9453.

Wild Animal Advocate Beverlee McGrath

Published 7:09 AM PT, August 25, 2016

Longtime wild animal advocate Beverlee McGrath works with wild infant mammals such as cottontail rabbits, raccoons and squirrels as a satellite animal rescue center in the Oxnard/Ventura area for the Calabasas based California Wildlife Center.

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