PETA has sent a formal complaint to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calling on the agency to investigate the fatal November 4 bear mauling of a young trainer at Bozeman-based Animals of Montana, an exhibitor that rents out big cats, bears, and other animals for photo ops and entertainment venues.

According to reports, 24-year-old Benjamin Cloutier died after being mauled by two grizzly bears owned by his boss, Troy Hyde, while he was cleaning the bear enclosure.

One of the bears was shot to death by an Animals of Montana trainer who was retrieving Cloutier from the enclosure. According to PETA, Hyde previously had his Animal Welfare Act exhibitor's license suspended for two years for illegal trafficking in endangered tigers.

In the letter, PETA points out that Hyde likely violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act by ignoring obvious, serious risks to those who work with dangerous animals. PETA also urges OSHA to cite Hyde and assess him the maximum civil penalties allowed by law for his willful and intentional violations of the act if he is found to have been negligent.

"Exhibitors like this one deny animals everything that's natural and important to them, and they can also put human lives at risk," says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. "The time has come to stop keeping captive bears as living props and risking lives in the process."

According to PETA, by law, Hyde is required to furnish employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards "that are causing, or likely to cause, death or serious physical harm."   They go on to say, Animals of Montana uses a dangerous and outmoded system of keeping animals called "free contact." The industry standard, called "protected contact," ensures that workers never enter an enclosure with a wild animal.

Protected contact requires that bears be moved from enclosures before workers enter and that protective barriers be maintained between workers and bears at all times.

PETA also says OSHA has the authority to investigate and cite Animals of Montana and to order it to adopt protected contact to prevent any such future tragedies.

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