Story by Emily Dieckman Photos courtesy Jennifer Hubbard
Local animal welfare activist Pat Hubbard, who passed away in May, was a champion for and friend to both animals and humans.
Some people are animal lovers because they prefer animals to humans. It was Charles de Gaulle who first said, “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.” And that’s a common refrain among animal lovers and people in the animal rescue community even today: that animals are just better than people.
But Tucson animal activist Pat Hubbard, who passed away on May 19, 2019 at age 70, was a person whose kindness and warmth extended to all living beings, especially the underserved, according to her loved ones. Mike Duffey, a retired sheriff who is now the animal cruelty investigator at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSAZ), worked with Pat for more than two decades. He says that, though he and Pat were about the same age, she was the first positive role model of a mother he ever had.
“Working with her was like working with a really kind and considerate mother,” he says. “She was not a ‘my way or the highway’ type person. She was willing to hear both sides of an argument and work toward the best solution. She would work with anybody on any topic.”
Over the years, Pat just about did work with everybody on every topic. She worked at HSSAZ from 1989 to 2016, as everything from a kennel technician to the community outreach and education coordinator. She also spent 10 years as board president for the Animal Welfare Alliance of Southern Arizona, 20 years on the board of the Pima Animal Care Advisory Committee and was on the board of the Great Dane Club of Tucson. Most recently, she worked for the veterinary nonprofit Asavet.
One of the people Pat worked with most closely over the years was her daughter-in-law Jennifer Hubbard. Jennifer first met Pat when she started dating Pat’s son, 30 years ago. They spent 22 of those years working together at HSSAZ, including four spent sharing an office. They also lived next door to each other for 25 years. That’s a lot of time spent in close proximity to a mother-in-law. But Jennifer loved it.
“She’s just such a genuinely nice, warm, accepting person, and it’s hard not to connect with her over anything,” Jennifer says. “She was kind of like a mother: really gentle when you needed her to be, but also stern when you needed her to be.”
The people who love Pat—and there are many—all agree that she was an expert at striking a balance between being kind and effective. For example, she started the HSSAZ Safe Haven Program, which provides animal care for pets of domestic violence survivors, nearly two decades ago. Some individuals are less likely to leave an abusive situation if they have to leave their pets behind, so providing a place for the animals to stay means keeping the animals safe so their humans can be safe too.
Pat, Duffey and former HSSAZ director of cruelty prevention Marsh Myers also lobbied to amend sections of Arizona law, increasing the penalty for certain kinds of animal cruelty from misdemeanors to felonies. When they found success in changing the statute, the trio decided to take it a step further, and, in 1999, they launched the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona. The organization is designed to help law enforcement, provide public education and prevent violent crimes toward animals. Duffey says in the last 20 years, organizations across the country have created similar programs. Pat, everyone agrees, was a critical part of making it happen.
“From day one – and this was true of the entire time I knew her – she was always upbeat. She was always optimistic,” Myers says. “She had to make more hard decisions than probably anyone, overseeing literally thousands of animals…. Some people crumble under that, and some people channel that. Pat was very much someone who channeled it.”
Jennifer remembers the knack Pam had for communicating, even with people who didn’t agree with her. She was calm, pragmatic and convincing. And, though she didn’t have a formal education beyond high school, she was intelligent in a way that made people want to really listen to what she said.
“She was so smart, and so knowledgeable, and she had so much information,” Jennifer says. “She knew how powerful that was, and wanted the rest of the community to have that knowledge about animals and animal cruelty, too.”
Pat and her husband, Dan, were married for nearly 50 years. They have three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Jennifer guesses Pat owned hundreds of animals over the course of her life, and Myers guesses she saved tens of thousands of animal lives. She impacted countless others, and her legacy lives on in the many creatures—four-legged and two-legged alike—that loved and were loved by Pat Hubbard.