Preventable Death of 24-Year-Old at Bozeman Menagerie Covered by Negligent Homicide Provision in State Law, Says Group
For Immediate Release:
June 5, 2013
David Perle 202-483-7382
Bozeman, Mont. — This morning, PETA sent a letter to Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert urging him to bring negligent manslaughter and criminal endangerment charges against Troy Hyde, owner of Animals of Montana—a Bozeman-based exotic-animal menagerie—with a history of violating federal laws. PETA’s letter comes in the wake of a determination by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that the November 4, 2012, mauling death of 24-year-old trainer Benjamin Cloutier by a grizzly bear was preventable. Following OSHA’s investigation—which came after PETA filed a formal complaint with the agency—OSHA announced that it’s seeking the maximum penalty against a company the size of Hyde’s.
“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.”
Montana law provides that a “person commits the offense of negligent homicide if the person negligently causes the death of another human being.” The OSHA investigators also determined that had the bears been placed in a holding area whenever anyone entered their enclosure—an industry standard known as “protected contact”—Cloutier would not have been attacked. Given the well-known risks of direct contact with dangerous animals, such as bears, and the recognition that protected contact eliminates this risk, Hyde acted negligently and, in so doing, caused Cloutier’s death.
This isn’t Hyde’s first run-in with the law. He was previously convicted of illegal trafficking in tigers in violation of the federal Endangered Species and Lacey acts, and his federal exhibitor’s license was suspended for two years. PETA is also asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reopen its investigation into the mauling and to look into matters uncovered by the state’s investigation, including unreported escapes of big cats and a wolf pup and a potentially fatal attack on a worker by a mountain lion.
For more information, please visit PETA.org.
PETA’s letter to Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert follows.
June 5, 2013
Gallatin County Attorney
Via e-mail: [email protected]
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