The vessel, named for the retired Price Is Right host, saved the lives of a crew of anti-whaling volunteers

By Cecilia De La Paz
January 29, 2010 09:00 PM

Bob Barker thought he would enjoy the quiet life after retiring as host of The Price Is Right. “I was looking forward to just sitting and staring into space, but I sit very little!” says the longtime animal activist who has been traveling the globe and championing animal causes close to his heart.

His most recent endeavor, a donation of $5 million to retro-fit an anti-whaling ship named in his honor, has already paid off. The vessel helped rescue a crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society volunteers, who were plucked from their sinking ship after it collided with Japanese whalers earlier this month.

“They could’ve died in the Antarctic. They got out a may-day, but the Japanese ignored it. I was just so elated that I made it possible,” Barker, 86, tells PEOPLE.

Barker’s passion stems from an early love of animals, and now he spends his days searching for his next big project. “Any animal exploitation or mistreatment brings out my ire,” says the former TV star, who would end the game show with his trademark mantra: “Help control the pet population. Get your pets spayed or neutered.”

At home with his own pets, Barker lets Jessie the dog – “who’s from a shelter of course–the only place to get them” – and rabbits Mr. Rabbit and Honey Bunny, have the run of the house.

“The rabbits have a big room that was going to be a television room. People were going to put them in a cage and I didn’t want that. [We’ve] built a burrow with some sheets and boxes in there for them,” he says. “I don’t remember not [ever] loving animals.”

Read more about Bob Barker in the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands now. And click here to read more about Barker on