Meet the married couple who share their home with a 55-stone bear who loves tea parties

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A seven-foot bear has proved that any wild animal can be trained to eat breakfast with you, star in photoshoots and even give you a cuddle on the sofa.

Stepan has been living with his owners Yuri and Svetlana Panteleenko in Moscow, Russia, since he was three months old, when he was adopted from the zoo.

Nearly 24 years later the 55 stone Russian bear has formed an extraordinary bond with the couple and sits down for meals with them everyday.

He is now set to star in a Channel 4 documentary – Bear About the House: Living With My Supersized Pet – alongside a deadly nine foot crocodile and a one tonne buffalo called Cody.

The UK’s pet population stands at a staggering 54 million – but for some, owning a cat or a dog just isn’t enough
(Image: Barcroft Media)
Stepan will star alongside a deadly nine foot crocodile and a one tonne buffalo called Cody in the documentary
(Image: Barcroft Media)

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The documentary is directed by Ross Haley who travels across the world to see these very unusual choice pets.

Ross said: “For the past 10 months, I’ve been meeting a rare breed of animal owner, trying to find out what sort of person lives with such a deadly animal.

Stepan in the past decade alone, has starred in 32 movies – 20 more than Hollywood great Leonardo DiCaprio
(Image: Barcroft Media)
In a new Channel 4 documentary, Bear About the House: Living With My Supersized Pet, director Ross Haley travels the world to meet three incredible pets
(Image: Barcroft Media)
Stepan hanging out inside the house
(Image: Barcroft Media)
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“With thousands of people around the planet owning dangerous animals, the rise of social media has meant a unique global community has formed and brought the owners out into the public eye.

“Despite the obvious danger, it’s clear a wild animal can become part of the family.

“Even though some make money from their pets, I can’t deny that these owners have formed an extraordinary bond with the most unlikely of companions.”

Stepan in the past decade alone, has starred in 32 movies – 20 more than Hollywood great Leonardo DiCaprio.

Owner Yuri said: “Our Stepan is 24 years old.

Stepan eats breakfast with Yuri and Svetlana every morning
(Image: Cover Images)

“He’s been with us since he was a cub. We took him from the zoo when he was three months old and we have been raising him ever since.

“He’s an animal with such weight, he can be really dangerous for a human.

“One of the most important conditions for the animals that live in captivity is food. Feeding him is a way of gaining trust.”

Stepan eats breakfast with Yuri and Svetlana every morning and gets through around 25kg of fruit, vegetables, fish and porridge in a single day.

Stepan was adopted as a 3-month-old orphaned cub by a married Moscow couple Svetlana and Yuriy Panteleenko
(Image: Cover Images)

In addition to being hired for photo-shoots, music videos and weddings, Stepan likes to relax by cuddling up to his owners on the sofa and his talents range from playing throw and catch, to watering flowers in the garden.

Ross also travelled to the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, where Vicki Lowing lives with three saltwater crocodiles.

Vicki’s biggest croc is called Jilly – she weighs 18 stone and, although she has the capabilities to grow as long as a limousine, she is currently eight foot long.

Vicki sees herself as a parent to her unconventional pets, but she takes things a step further by allowing Jilly to roam the corridors and have a sleepover one night a week in her very own bedroom inside the house.

Stepan is also on hand to offer a cuddle or two
(Image: Cover Images)
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And despite her mother’s concerns, Vicki has a new pond built in her back garden – a facility made specifically with Jilly in mind.

Vicki explained: “They’re not as cuddly as a cat, but there’s just something about them.

“I treat all of my pets like they’re humans, I suppose they’re like my kids.”

Ross also pays a visit to Mike and Valerie Fogel, a couple in Minnesota, US, who live with their giant one-tonne buffalo Cody.

Buffalos are the largest animals in America and, with Cody weighing around the same as a small family car and measuring a towering six feet, it’s hard to imagine him roaming the family house.

Stepan has appeared in numerous photo shoots over the years
(Image: Cover Images)

But that’s exactly what he does. Cody was spared the slaughterhouse when Mike and Valerie decided to raise him just after birth.

And Cody is now so well trained that he gets taken for baths at the car wash and goes inside the local pub for a quick drink.

Mike said: “If you don’t respect them, you’re going to get hurt.

“It’s not about the adrenaline, it’s not about the attention, it’s more of a spiritual thing – it’s in my heart and for that reason, I’m glad.”

Valerie added: “It’s just like having one of the grandkids over.”

And to round off Ross’ exploration, he meets with Larry Wallach – otherwise known as the ‘Tiger Man of Long Island’.

Larry has spent the last 30 years rescuing and temporarily housing thousands of animals and once provided a tiger to pop superstar Michael Jackson.

Channel 4 documentary Bear About the House: Living With My Supersized Pet airs on July 24 at 8pm.

From The Mirror