Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

Teacher who fed live puppy to turtle in front of pupils is cleared of cruelty

A teacher who fed a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of his terrified students has been found not guilty of animal cruelty.

Robert Crosland, a science teacher at Preston Junior High School in the US state of Idaho, had been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty back in June.

The puppy had deformities and it would die soon anyway, according to parents who spoke to local TV stations in the immediate aftermath.

Witnesses in court testified that the puppy swam around frantically before it was dragged to the bottom of the tank by the snapping turtle and became unconscious.

But a jury found him not guilty of animal cruelty after Mr Crosland’s lawyer argued that "we don’t believe a crime was committed".

In an interview with investigators, Mr Crosland himself swore he was simply "putting the puppy out of its misery".

The US science teacher had faced up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine if convicted, the Daily Mail reported.

He said: "I honestly thought I was doing the right thing. That’s what’s been so hard in seeing all this because that’s what I’ve been taught my whole life – not to let the animal suffer."

The teacher’s actions enraged animal rights activists.

In the wake of the scandal, campaigner Jill Parrish slammed Mr Crosland’s demonstration as "disgusting and sick".

She added: "Allowing children to watch an innocent baby puppy scream because it is being fed to an animal. That is violence. That is not okay."

Prosecutor David Morris said the incident occurred after normal school hours with four students present, according to local reports.

One student , 14, said he played with and touched the "small, cute" puppy, believed to have been a labrador.

Mr Crosland is said to have initially tried to feed it to a snake, but the reptile did not attack it.

According to testimony, the dog was in poor health – and emaciated to the point where its ribs were visible.

Mr Crosland’s own son, Mario, argued this is why his father had fed the puppy to the turtle, asking: "If you can lose a life to help another, then why not?"

After being exonerated, the teacher thanked the community of Preston, Idado, for "staying behind me".

He added: "It’s really what got me through all this, just their comments and talking to me and expressing their love."

Preston, in rural Idaho, is known around the world as the setting of the 2004 teen cult classic film Napoleon Dynamite.

Marc Gee, the local schools superintendent, had previously told the media that his administration became aware of "a regrettable circumstance involving some of the biological specimens" on March 7 2018.

Mr Gee said: "The event occurred well after students had been dismissed and was not a part of any school-directed program.

"We emphasize that at no time was the safety of students or staff compromised."

Following the incident, state officials seized the turtle and euthanised it, as a non-native species.

After the incident attracted national and international media coverage, a petition to have Mr Crosland fired was signed by more than 243,000 members of the public.

The petition read: "Unfortunately, on March 7, [Crosland] decided to feed one of those creatures – a snapping turtle to be exact – a puppy.

"Please join in demanding that Robert Crosland be fired for this disturbing decision!"

But a counter-petition started by the local community, former students and Mr Crosland’s colleagues expressed support for the long-time science teacher, and had attracted almost 4,000 signatures by Saturday, the Idaho Statesman reported .

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