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Bear that killed caretaker euthanized

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A bear that mauled to death a caretaker was euthanized yesterday at the request of the family of the victim, whose father said he had told his son to leave the job.

The bear attacked Brent Kandra, 24, when he opened its cage Thursday for a routine feeding at the home of a man who kept a menagerie of wolves, tigers and bears on the property southwest of Cleveland.

The owner, Sam Mazzola, who has drawn criticism from animal rights activists for letting people wrestle with one of his bears, had said Kandra's family would decide the bear's fate.

Kandra's father, John, said he and his ex-wife, Deirdre Herbert, needed the bear to die.

"It just seemed like Sam kind of took advantage of my son," Kandra's father said. "I told him a couple times, 'I really wish you wouldn't work for him.' " Mazzola's lawyer didn't return a call seeking comment yesterday.

After the bear was put to death by a veterinarian, John Kandra recalled his son, a little blond boy who fished his way through childhood in the rivers of northeastern Ohio, baiting bullfrogs with a blade of grass and catching carp big enough to shame the tallest teller of fish tales.

"I can't think of when he wasn't involved with animals," Kandra said.

Brent Kandra's penchant for critters led him to Mazzola's world of exotic animals, where neighbors say roars and howls resound.

Kandra spent the end of his teenage years and his 20s tending to dogs and feeding bears.

Mazzola owned four tigers, a lion, eight bears and 12 wolves, he said at a bankruptcy filing in May.

The USDA had revoked Mazzola's license to exhibit animals after animal rights activists campaigned for him to stop letting people wrestle with another one of his bears.

He had permits for nine bears for 2010, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The state requires permits for bears but doesn't regulate the ownership of nonnative animals like lions and tigers.

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