In 1972, she moved to the Greater Los Angeles Area and sublet her apartment on Central Park West in New York City and her country home in Bedford, New York. Bea Arthur was a committed animal-rights activist and frequently supported People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaigns and joined PETA in 1987 after a Golden Girls anti-fur episode. She appeared on Judge Judy as a witness for an animal-rights activist, and, along with Pamela Anderson insisted on a donation to PETA in exchange for appearing on Comedy Central. In Norfolk, Virginia near the site of the PETA headquarters, there is a dog park named (Bea Arthur Dog Park) in her honor. Arthur's longtime championing of civil rights for women, the elderly, and the Jewish & LGBT communities—in her two television roles and through her charity work and personal outspokenness. Arthur died at her home in the Greater Los Angeles Area in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 25, 2009. She had been ill from cancer,and her body was cremated after her death. Her ashes were given to either a friend or relative.On April 28, 2009, the Broadway community paid tribute to Arthur by dimming the marquees of New York City's Broadway theater district in her memory for one minute at 8:00 P.M. Bea Arthur's co-stars from The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, commented on her death via telephone on an April 27 episode of Larry King Live as well as other news outlets such as ABC. Longtime friends Adrienne Barbeau (with whom she had worked on Maude) and Angela Lansbury (with whom she had worked in Mame) released amicable statements: Barbeau said, "We've lost a unique, incredible talent. No one could deliver a line or hold a take like Bea and no one was more generous or giving to her fellow performers"; and Lansbury said, "She became and has remained my "Bosom Buddy" I am deeply saddened by her passing, but also relieved that she is released from the pain".
Arthur bequeathed $300,000 to The Ali Forney Center, a New York City organization that provides housing for homeless LGBT youths. Dear Bea won the American Theatre Wing's Tony Award (The Tonys) in 1966 as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance that year as Vera Charles in the original Broadway production of Jerry Herman's musical Mame. Arthur has received the most Emmy nominations for Leading Actress in a Comedy Series with 9. She later received the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series twice, once in 1977 for Maude and again in 1988 for The Golden Girls. She was inducted into the Academy's Hall of Fame in 2008.
On June 8, 2008, The Golden Girls was awarded the Pop Culture award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. Arthur (in one of her final public appearances) accepted the award with co-stars Rue McClanahan and Betty White.