There is an interesting (and rather disgusting) case out of Idaho where science teacher Robert Crosland is facing six months in jail after a national controversy over his feeding of a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students in his class at Preston Junior School. The exercise would ultimately lead to the death of both the puppy and the turtle in addition to the criminal prosecution of Crosland.
The exercise occurred on March 7th and some students were reportedly traumatized despite the reported popularity of Crosland as a teacher. Previously, Crosland fed guinea pigs to his turtle.
The turtle was killed by state officials later as a non-native species. Crosland was then charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. Here is the state statute:
25-3504. COMMITTING CRUELTY TO ANIMALS.
Every person who is cruel to any animal, or who causes or procures any animal to be cruelly treated, or who, having the charge or custody of any animal either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to cruelty shall, upon conviction, be punished in accordance with section 25-3520A, Idaho Code. Any law enforcement officer or animal care and control officer, subject to the restrictions of section 25-3501A, Idaho Code, may take possession of the animal cruelly treated, and provide care for the same, until final disposition of such animal is determined in accordance with section 25-3520A or 25-3520B, Idaho Code.
The line for such charges remains uncertain for me. It is common for example for live mice to be fed to snakes. Is the difference the cuteness of the animal being devoured? Moreover, if Crosland killed the puppy with a hammer or knife in a quick fashion, would he be allowed to feed it to the turtle?
I personally am appalled by the exercise which clearly would produce trauma for many of us, particularly given the close human connection to dogs. However, there remains that pesky question of whether a live animals can be used as prey or whether a puppy (which in this case was reportedly sick) can be used if dispatched first by the owner.
Crosland clearly picked the wrong species for turtle food. A petition to have him fired has reached roughly 200,000 signatures.