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Trainers want bear spared

April 24, 2008 |  9:43 am

Stephanmiller

Friends and colleagues of an animal trainer killed by a performing bear called it a "freak accident" Wednesday and said the 700-pound grizzly should not be euthanized, Times staff writer David Kelly reports.

"The same thing he was doing I have done a hundred times. We wrestle the bears in a loving way," said Joel Almquist, an animal trainer who has worked extensively with Rocky, the 5-year-old grizzly who killed 39-year-old Stephan Miller, pictured here, on Tuesday with a single bite to the neck.

"This bear has never shown aggression," Almquist said. "It was a flash bite, a real quick . . . bam. Unfortunately, we are built like tissue paper compared to them."

At the same time Wednesday, animal rights advocates said the bear's owner, Stephan Miller's cousin, Randy Miller, had a history of neglecting his cast of exotic movie animals and have called for the bear's retirement from showbiz.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released inspection reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture citing Randy Miller for keeping animals in small enclosures without roofs, keeping them in pens with ripped plywood and improperly storing food.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: AP/DMV

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