Require Safety Barriers Between Workers and Captive Animals

Target: David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Goal: Require protective physical barriers between workers and captive wild animals

Inadequate safety precautions unfortunately cause the premature deaths of workers in many industries. But deaths among those who work with wild animals can be prevented with just a few additional safety measures. The case of Benjamin Cloutier, a 24-year-old animal trainer who perished after being mauled by a brown bear in captivity, brings to light the tragic—and preventable—dangers that animal workers face daily. Urge the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect workers from dangerous captive animals.

Cloutier is the latest worker to die due to an accident with captive animals, but he is not the first. In 2010, a SeaWorld trainer named Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca whale who dragged her to the bottom of a tank in front of a live audience. Many workers employed by zoos, national parks, or other venues that keep live animals in captivity risk the safety of both their employees and their animals by refusing to install adequate safety precautions.

Requiring physical barriers between workers and the wild animals they care for would foster greater workplace safety, as well as creating a less stressful environment for animals in captivity. However, OSHA has recently rejected suggestions to require physical barriers between animals and their caretakers. Urge OSHA to prevent future deaths by mandating this sensible safety precaution for animal workers.


Dear David Michaels,

Too many animal caretakers have died on the job due to inadequate safety precautions. While working with wild animals will always carry some degree of risk, that risk can be reduced by implementing simple and sensible rules—like mandatory physical barriers between trainers and animals.

Recently, a 24-year-old trainer named Benjamin Cloutier died while cleaning a brown bear enclosure. In 2010, a SeaWorld trainer was killed by an orca whale who dragged her to the bottom of a tank. These deaths and others like them could have been prevented by simple physical safety barriers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently denied a plea to mandate such safety precautions, stating that the current safety guidelines in place were adequate to protect animal caretakers. The cases of Cloutier and Dawn Brancheau clearly indicate that such guidelines are not enough to prevent untimely deaths. I urge you to take these two cases into consideration and make the sensible decision. Mandate safety barriers between animals and caretakers today.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons

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