Story highlights

Bob Barker urges passage of the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act

In a Capitol Hill news conference, he tells of violence used to train animals

Animal protection advocate tells of confined lives of large show animals

Actress Jorga Fox: "Our kids look to us to do what is right"

Washington CNN  — 

Bob Barker, the former host of “The Price Is Right,” made an impassioned plea Wednesday for an end to what he described as an ugly side of entertainment: the mistreatment of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses.

At a Capitol Hill news conference, Barker noted that traveling circuses rely heavily on animals that are trained to do tricks, which he said is accomplished with acts of cruelty.

“How do they train them? They have to dominate the animal,” Barker said. “How do they dominate the animal? They beat it, with clubs, fists, black jacks, ax handles, golf clubs. They shock it with all sorts of electric devices. They use bull hooks on them they even deprive them of food and even water in order to make them do these tricks.”

Barker, who is well known for promoting the cause of animal protection, is championing the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act. The bill, which would amend the existing Animal Welfare Act, has attracted bipartisan support.

The bill would affect only traveling shows. It specifically exempts zoos, aquariums and research labs and rodeos.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Virginia, said that although the issue is not the most pressing concern of the day for Americans, “how we treat animals is a reflection of our nation’s moral character.”

Dr. Mel Richardson of Animal Defenders International lent his perspective from more than four decades of veterinary practice on the conditions of most, if not all, lions, tigers and elephants in traveling shows: “Imagine living all of your life on a queen-size or king-size bed.”

But the concerns are not confined to their housing. Jan Creamer, president of ADI, said there is sufficient documented evidence – gained from workers planted in some traveling circuses – that many of the animals suffer from violent training and severe punishment.

Barker’s celebrity co-host was actress Jorga Fox of “CSI” and “The West Wing,” who echoed the call for setting up more permanent residences for circus animals, and taking them off the road.

“Our kids look to us for what is right and our kids look to us for what is fun. … If our kids knew how cruel and violent these events were, I think they’d actually be very disappointed in us, for [going] to these places,” Fox said.

A recent incident in Ohio in which privately kept wild and exotic animals were released by their owner and ultimately killed by authorities, and a recent lawsuit against SeaWorld alleging the exploitation of orcas, have drawn attention to the mistreatment of show animals. Barker and his fellow advocates say the public is attuned to the nature of the proposed legislation.

Similar measures have been passed in at least 20 countries, including Bolivia, Peru, Portugal and India. And, according to the panel, more than a half-dozen countries are soon likely to follow suit.

“It is time for the United States to join this parade of nations that is doing the right thing,” Barker said.