Back in March 2018, an Idaho science teacher was accused of feeding a sick puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students to teach them about “the circle of life”. Along with attracting a whole lot of heat on social media, the extracurricular lesson also earned Robert Crosland a trial last week at a Franklin County court.
Crosland was found not guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty charges by a jury on Friday, as reported by East Idaho News.
"I’d like to thank this community for staying behind me. It’s really what got me through all of this,” he told reporters, speaking publicly about the incident for the first time.
The snapping turtle's fate, however, was not so fortunate. The turtle, called Jaws, was reportedly seized and euthanized by the Idaho Department of Agriculture shortly after the incident because it is defined as an invasive species. RIP Jaws.
A dog belonging to Crosland's neighbor gave birth to the puppy, which was said to be deeply sick and on the verge of dying. The junior high teacher believed it would be the “right thing” to put the puppy out of its misery and kill it promptly – by feeding it to the school’s python, Monty.
However, Monty didn’t take the bait. Later that same day, Crosland decided to feed it to Jaws after school hours in a classroom with a small group of students. Students recalled how the dog was dropped into a tank with the snapping turtle and thrashed around for around 30 seconds before being eaten. All of the students who testified said they had no problem with the act and were appropriately warned beforehand.
“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,” Stratton Laggis, Crosland’s defense attorney, told Fox 13.
The defense also argued that the act, legally speaking, was no different from feeding a rodent to a pet reptile.
Many of the school’s teachers and a student were also called to the defense of Crosland’s character, arguing that he was a great teacher with a true love for animals. A petition called “We Support Crosland” also received over 3,000 signatures, stating: “As a past student I know first hand the impact he had on my life and many others. Time to show our support for the man that taught us science in a new way and truly loves his job."
Crosland reportedly continues to teach at the junior high school.
However, local animal welfare groups were not so pleased with the verdict. The Idaho Humane Society said in a statement: “Drowning an injured or ill animal in the manner and under the circumstances that were found to have occurred in this case was an act of wanton cruelty.”
“This verdict will no doubt bring both national and even international condemnation of Idaho’s laws and the reputation of Idaho in general.”