ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Former game show host and longtime animal rights activist Bob Barker has made a personal appeal to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina to stop exhibiting bears in pit-like enclosures at three local zoos.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that Barker met Tuesday with Principal Chief Michell Hicks and five members of the Tribal Council. He called the bears' conditions inhumane and asked that they be turned over to a sanctuary in California.
"To think that with as advanced as our civilization is now that there is any place in the United States were bears are kept in pits is just unbelievable," said Barker, who is part American Indian and grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. "Just picture yourself, if your life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, month after month, was in a pit."
The bears are displayed in walled enclosures set into the ground at three local attractions that bill themselves as zoos and theme parks.
Barker will discuss the meeting at a news conference Wednesday morning in Asheville.
Hicks told the Asheville Citizen-Times that the tribe follows federal regulations in caring for the bears.
Collette Coggins, who owns one of the attractions, the Cherokee Bear Zoo, with her husband, Barry, said the bears don't stay in the pits all day, every day. "We love our animals," she said. "They are like our pets."