Posted: Jun 5, 2013 2:06 PM by KBZK
Updated: Jun 5, 2013 2:24 PM
PETA is urging the Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert to bring charges against Animals of Montana for a bear mauling at the facility last year that left a 24-year-old man dead.
This morning, PETA sent a letter to Lambert, urging him to file negligent manslaughter and criminal endangerment charges against the owner of the wildlife casting agency north of Bozeman.
"By allowing employees to have direct contact with powerful and dangerous grizzlies, it was only a matter of time before someone was killed," says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. "We believe that a crime was committed, that a life could have been saved, and that Hyde should be prosecuted for manslaughter."
Lambert responded to a request for comment on this matter in an email to KBZK, saying there was "no need" for him to make a statement about the request from PETA.
"There is no request for prosecution of the exhibitor from the sheriff or any other state law enforcement agency. Until such a request is made, I have nothing to act upon," Lambert said in his email.
On Nov. 5, 2012, Benjamin Cloutier, 24, of Bozeman and formerly of Yorkhaven, Pennsylvania, was mauled and killed by the captive-bred brown bear at the Animals of Montana facility. Cloutier was reportedly cleaning the bear's enclosure when the attack occurred.
Back in November, a man in charge at the time Cloutier died said it was not an attack because there were no defensive wounds on the victim and no one heard any kind of noise that sounded like an attack or someone calling for help. The victim had bear spray and it was not engaged, the employee said during an earlier interview.
We are attempting to contact Lambert for comment.
The following is the letter PETA sent to Lambert:
Dear Mr. Lambert:
I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and its more than 3 million members and supporters, including thousands in Montana, to request that you file negligent homicide and criminal endangerment charges against Troy Hyde, in light of the gruesome and wholly preventable death of his employee, Benjamin Cloutier, who was mauled to death by a grizzly bear at Hyde's Animals of Montana facility on November 5, 2012.
According to the Gallatin County coroner, the young Mr. Cloutier died of bite and claw wounds that hit major arteries and caused massive blood loss. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently concluded its investigation into the mauling and proposed the highest possible penalty after finding that direct contact with bears, as was the general practice at Hyde's Animals of Montana, is a "recognized hazard that is likely to cause death or serious physical injury" (emphasis added). This statement echoes Montana's criminal negligence standard, which provides that a person is criminally negligent if he "consciously disregards a risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists or when he disregards a risk of which the person should be aware that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists."
More specifically, Montana law provides that a person commits the offense of negligent homicide if he "negligently causes the death of another human being" and commits criminal endangerment if he "knowingly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another." As detailed in the attached appendix, Hyde willfully subjected Mr. Cloutier and other employees to life-threatening conditions on a daily basis by having them handle dangerous wild animals in a "free-contact" system, wherein there are no barriers between humans and animals capable of killing them easily. Free contact is well-recognized in the industry-and by Hyde himself-as posing serious risks of death and injury. As OSHA has recognized, Mr. Cloutier's death could easily have been prevented had Hyde used a "protected-contact," rather than a "free-contact," management system. Indeed, it is precisely for this reason that protected contact is the standard practice in captive-bear husbandry. Yet Hyde willfully refused to implement the safer practice, and that refusal directly resulted in the wholly preventable death of Mr. Cloutier. For these reasons, PETA urges you to pursue the maximum criminal penalty available for Hyde's serious and willful violations of Montana criminal law. We hope to hear that you will institute negligent homicide and criminal endangerment charges against Hyde without delay.
Very truly yours,
Delcianna Winders, Esq.
Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement