Olonets, Russia (NBCNews Channel)– A crowd’s laughter changed to screams of horror after a bear in a traveling circus attacked its handler and then turned toward the people watching.
It happened in Olonets, Russia on Oct. 23
An amateur video was taken by a woman in the audience who captured the moment when the bear, walking on its hind legs, attacked its trainer, bit him, and knocked him to the ground.
Video shows the crowd screaming in fear and beginning to run for the exit, another bear handler tried to kick the bear to stop the attack.
“People started to jump up. A panic started. Everyone grabbed their kids and started running,” said eyewitness Galina Guryeva.
Local media and witnesses said when the bear turned toward the people watching it was subdued by an electric prod. There were no barriers between the bear and the audience.
Russian officials say they’ve opened a criminal investigation into whether the circus acted in a safe manner.
At least 52 countries around the world have banned using wild animals in circuses. Both the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circuses have closed due to the American public’s disapproval of using wild animals in circuses.