US teacher who fed live puppy to snapping turtle in front of students acquitted of animal cruelty charge

PHOTO: The Straits Times

A biology teacher made headlines in the United States after he fed a living puppy to a snapping turtle in front of his students.

Mr Robert Crosland, who teaches at Preston Junior High School in Idaho, was acquitted of one count of misdemeanour animal cruelty on Friday (Jan 4), according to US media.

His attorney Shane Reichert told local newspaper The Herald Journal: "Obviously we didn't believe the facts amounted to a criminal offence… The reality was that there was a ton of misinformation and gossip that were not actual facts or evidence."

Witnesses who testified during the trial said Mr Crosland had first tried to feed the puppy to a large snake last March.

When that failed, he dropped the puppy into a tank with the snapping turtle, named Jaws.

The turtle grabbed it by the leg, dragged it to the bottom of the tank, waited about 30 seconds for the puppy to stop moving and then proceeded to "rip it apart and eat it", state prosecutors said.

They also said the turtle was an invasive species that Mr Crosland did not have a permit to keep. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture euthanised the turtle after the incident, The Herald Journal said.

But his lawyers claimed that the puppy, which was between one and four weeks old, had already been ill and Mr Crosland was doing what he thought was best for it by putting it out of its misery, said USA Today.

Mr Crosland could have been jailed six months and fined US$5,000 (S$6,800), but was acquitted after a six-person jury found him not guilty after deliberating for 20 minutes.

The Idaho Humane Society called it "an act of wanton cruelty", adding that it was "outraged and saddened at the grievous error in judgment by the jury".

"This verdict will no doubt bring both national and even international condemnation of Idaho's laws and the reputation of Idaho in general," the society said in a statement on its website.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.