Robert Crosland, a high school science teacher in Preston, Idaho, was found not guilty of animal cruelty by a six-person jury on Friday. Crosland came under fire last summer after he fed a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of his students.
According to East Idaho News, a Franklin County court heard Crosland’s case over the course of two days last week. He faced charges of misdemeanour animal cruelty after a local animal rights activist, Jill Parrish, filed a police report complaining about Crosland’s decision to feed the puppy to his class turtle.
“Allowing children to watch an innocent baby puppy scream because it is being fed to an animal,” Parrish told Fox 13 at the time. “That is violence. That is not ok.”
Crosland’s defence didn’t dispute the accuracy of the story and said that the puppy was sick and likely to die soon. “He was in a situation in which he was trying to do what was best for his animals, trying not to waste a life. And teach students the circle of life,” Crosland’s defence attorney, Stratton Laggis, told Fox 13 reporters.
The disturbing feeding took place after school hours. Multiple students testified that they were present at the time and that Crossland first asked them if they’d like to take the sick puppy home. When he found no takers, he asked if they wanted to watch him feed the puppy to a class reptile. One 14-year-old student said that the puppy “looked like a lab,” and the teacher first tried to feed it to an uninterested snake. Another student said that when he tried placing the puppy in the snapping turtle’s tank, the turtle dragged it under water until it became unconscious and proceeded to eat it.
It’s a fact that few people would blink an eye if they heard that a science teacher fed a live mouse to a snake in the classroom, but a puppy crosses a line that would make many people uncomfortable. Still, Crosland’s defence successfully argued that his actions were not against the law. According to local station KIKD, Crosland’s son Mario testified that he’d been given the puppy by a farmer who informed him it was sick and dying.
Mario then handed the puppy over to his father, who told a reporter, “I honestly thought I was doing the right thing by putting it out of its misery.”
The situation did include one violation of the law: The snapping turtle is considered an invasive species, and the Idaho Department of Agriculture euthanised it because Crosland didn’t have a permit.