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"Spay & Neuter Your Pets" is a flash-style animation that focuses on the importance of making sure we all control the pet population. Naturally, this piece is heavily influenced by Bob Barker, and features both images of this great man as well as one of the all-time great game show theme songs. 

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Bob Barker donation will help change the laws for animals

Enlisting Law Schools in Campaign for Animals

New York Times

Published: November 27, 2004

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 26 - When Bob Barker was growing up in Mission, a small town on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, his mother always knew how to find him.

She would climb onto the roof of the only two-story building in Mission, he said, "and she'd look for the dogs, because I always had a pack of dogs with me and she'd know that's where I was."

In those years, he had all sorts of dogs - there were Jack and Barney, and another named Brownie, and others whose names have vanished from memory.

"They were all strays that came in and I adopted," Mr. Barker, the longtime host of "The Price Is Right," said this week in an interview in his Hollywood home. "There were a lot of dogs in Mission. Not many people but a lot of dogs."

Mr. Barker, who will be 81 next month, recalled his lifelong affinity for animals, a passion that prompts him to end every "Price Is Right" show with a call for spaying and neutering dogs and cats. In 1987 it impelled him to resign from a lucrative job as host of the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Universe pageants because their organizers insisted on having the contestants wear fur coats.

Now Mr. Barker has a new mission, which he is bankrolling with his own fortune. He has established endowments of $1 million each at several law schools - including those at Stanford, Columbia, Duke and the University of California, Los Angeles - for the study of animal-rights law. Other law schools, among them Northwestern University and the University of Michigan, are in the running for similar gifts.

The idea, he said, is to train a generation of lawyers, judges and legislators in animal rights and the widespread problems of cruelty and neglect.

"The laws are not stringent enough, and unfortunately the laws that we do have are not necessarily enforced," Mr. Barker said. "If we can get more and more young lawyers to be aware of this, then if they're involved in a case that involves animals, they'll know what to do. If they become judges, that's wonderful, they're making decisions. And some of these lawyers are going to become politicians.

"The most important thing we can do is to change legislation involving animals, and these young people will be in a position to do exactly that. So if the money I invest in this serves to do that, I think it's money well spent."

Harvard Law School was the first to benefit from Mr. Barker's focus on protecting animals. In 2001, when Pearson Television, which then owned "The Price Is Right," decided to allocate $500,000 to honor his 30 years as host of the show, Mr. Barker convinced company executives that the money would best be spent by donating it to Harvard University, which established what became known as the Bob Barker Endowment Fund for the Study of Animal Rights.

Mr. Barker said he had been giving money to animal-rights organizations for several decades. In 1995, with an eye on the growing population of domestic animals, Mr. Barker, who is one-eighth Indian, put $25 million into what he named the DJ&T Foundation, which finances clinics that specialize in spaying and neutering. The foundation is named after his wife, Dorothy Jo, who died in 1981, and his mother, Matilda Valandra, a schoolteacher on the Rosebud reservation whom everyone knew as Tilly.

"There are just too many cats and dogs being born," he said. "Animals are being euthanized by the millions simply because there are not enough homes for them. In the United States there is a dog or cat euthanized every 6.5 seconds."

Despite what he sees as a dire situation, Mr. Barker remained irrepressibly upbeat during a reporter's visit to his 1929-era home in the Hollywood Hills, a short drive from the CBS studio where he records the game show on which he has been the host for 32 years. "The Price Is Right" is still the highest-rated game show on daytime television. It received unwelcome attention in 1994 when a former model on the show, Diane Parkinson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Mr. Barker. He said the two had had a consensual relationship. She later dropped the suit.

Mr. Barker, a strict vegetarian, lives with two rabbits, one white, one black. His most recent dog, a Labrador retriever named Winston, was put down last January because of kidney disease.

"He was a great friend," Mr. Barker said. "I loved him and he loved everyone. I read once that 70 or 75 percent of the homes in the United States have at least one pet, so we love our own animals, and we would be more willing to help all animals if we just were aware of what the sad conditions are for many of them."

Animal-rights activism is nothing new in the entertainment industry. Brigitte Bardot is almost as well-known for speaking out against cruelty to animals as she is for her films of four decades ago. Mary Tyler Moore, Alec Baldwin, Hayley Mills, Pamela Anderson and Kim Basinger have all taken public stands on the subject, as did Linda McCartney and Diana, Princess of Wales.

On a much smaller scale than his gifts to law schools, Mr. Barker provided recipes for a vegetarian cookbook published by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. So did the actor Jackie Chan, who has also spoken out against the treatment of stray dogs in Taiwan and the abuse of elephants in Thailand. Mr. Chan also appeared in a public-service commercial that asked people throughout Asia not to buy products containing bear bile and rhinoceros bone.

On Nov. 17 opponents of foie gras in West Hollywood celebrated the passage of a California law outlawing the force-feeding of birds. Among the bill's supporters were Paul McCartney, Ms. Basinger and Martin Sheen.

At several of the law schools that have benefited from Mr. Barker's largesse, officials and professors vowed to promote his philosophy of kindness through learning.

Barton H. Thompson, a law professor at Stanford University, said the Barker gift "permits us to look at animal rights issues in a broader sort of way." The subject, he said, is wide enough to encompass "the way we treat pets and what animals we permit as pets," protection of animals' habitats, enforcement of the Endangered Species Act and humans' responsibilities to animals.

"It's a relatively young area, so not a lot has been written in the legal field about it," Mr. Thompson said. "Bob Barker's gift is quite timely. This is an emerging area, so his gift can help speed up development of the field."

At Columbia University, Jim Fox, a spokesman for the law school, said the $1 million gift would be felt in the fall of 2005 with an animal-rights course taught by David Wolfson, a partner at the New York law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. Mr. Wolfson, who has taught the subject at Yale, Harvard and Cardozo Law Schools, is a pro bono counsel to the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

In addition, Mr. Fox said, teachers in Columbia's environmental law discipline will focus "on how animals may be threatened by adverse changes in their environment."

In North Carolina, unique among the 50 states for a law that enables individuals and citizens' organizations to obtain injunctions against violators of the state's animal cruelty laws, officials at Duke University plan to use part of their Barker gift to establish the North Carolina Animal Cruelty Project, which will monitor compliance with the laws and help litigate cruelty cases.

The money will also be used to cover the expenses of volunteer lawyers who handle such cases, said William A. Reppy Jr., who has been teaching a class on animal rights at Duke in alternate years and who hopes to make it a yearly course with money from the Barker gift.

"We'll also be able to set up a course where students can get credit for helping these attorneys," Mr. Reppy said. He plans to recommend that Duke establish a discipline in animal-rights jurisprudence.

At the law school of the University of California, Los Angeles, Dean Michael H. Schill said there was "already an interest in animal rights law" before the Barker gift, but that "it wasn't supported financially."

"This allows us to increase the level of activity and enrich it," he said. "It really is a great opportunity. It was a welcome surprise."

Mr. Barker seems to get satisfaction from more basic feedback.

"Sometimes," he said, beaming, "I'm walking down the street and I have people say: 'Hey, Bob! I had my dog spayed.' "