Junior High Teacher Charged Criminally After Feeding Puppy To Snapping Turtle In Class

1115ast1There 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.

37 thoughts on “Junior High Teacher Charged Criminally After Feeding Puppy To Snapping Turtle In Class

  1. Our national culture views cats, dogs, and horses as companion animals, not food. Not all other countries do, but that is our way, and I like it that way.

    The teacher showed callous cruelty and extreme lack of judgement in not only feeding the puppy, but in inviting other students to see. Being eaten alive is a horrible way to go, which is why pets are supposed to have a better life than they would in the cruel wild.

    Was the puppy diagnosed by a vet? Why did the science teacher think it was dying? Did it have parvo, or was it just dehydrated? Infested with worms? Swallowed something bad? The owner of the puppy made a mistake in not taking it to a vet or a rescue. Did it have a disease that could have been transmitted to the turtle? In general, it is not good animal husbandry to feed diseased meat to a pet.

    I know why the teacher would have been tempted to feed a small animal to his pet turtle. The larger the carnivore, the more expensive to feed. It can be difficult to find food and stay within your budget. There are many ethical ways to solve this, however, including raising pinkies or feeder goldfish. Snapping turtles are supposed to eat dead food, too, so there was no reason to feed the pup alive.

    It is a little known fact that many cockerel chicks end up as pet food. A few breeds can be sexed at birth from feather coloring or pattern. The little roos are either immediately put into a food grinder, still alive to make chicken meal (mechanical mastication is considered humane by our government), or they are sold as live snake food. In the old days, cockerels were raised for meat birds. People want their meat cheap and flavorless in the supermarket, now, and no one makes their own broth from even older birds. So chicken farmers designed the Cornish Cross, which has a genetic abnormality that makes them never feel full, and they grow a fuller breast. You cannot free feed them like you could other chickens, or they will eat until they cannot walk, literally. Watching this breed eat is disturbing. It’s like they’re starving to death, which must be what they feel like all the time. They cannot survive for very long without developing health problems. They are typically slaughtered at only 8 weeks of age, and by 10 weeks, it really is a kindness to take them out, as they are already struggling to get around. There are very specific feeding regimens to try to help them survive. Anyway, few people are interested in the slow food chicken, which would give roos some life and a better way to go than down a snake’s gullet or the equivalent of a garbage disposal.

    Read your dog or cat food label. If it says “chicken meal”, you could very well be feeding your pet chicks that were ground up still alive, or gassed. Maybe the cheapest meat is not the best way to go.

    Knowing this, the science teacher was probably delighted at receiving a free meal for his snapping turtle. If he has been feeding it live guinea pigs, he’s already become hardened to the whole process. Feeding live meals is not even necessary. You don’t release a live bunny into a tiger pen at the zoo, typically. So, to him, he apparently thought feeding a live puppy to a snapping trouble was cool, so he invited guests to come watch the show. A snapping turtle’s bite really hurts, and they can take off a toe or the tip of your finger. I cannot imagine what that little puppy went through, poor thing.

    This is one of those examples where I really do think our Western approach to pet animals is best, and this is an example of what would be commonplace if we lacked these values.

    This teacher showed poor judgement and cruelty. I don’t care how good of a science teacher he is; he is a miserable human being. He sounds like the type of person who pulled the wings off of flies. He used school property for a callous act, and he involved students. I would have a problem with him. It is up to the school to decide if his behavior warrants dismissal, based on if it harms the reputation of the school or their workplace standards. It does sound like animal cruelty, which will be up to the court to decide.

    Unfortunately, because of school unions, it can take two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs to fire a teacher for cause, so it is unlikely that he will be fired. If he was a university professor with tenure, he could do this in the quad every morning.

    • While not ruling out bad judgement, this man should be given a psychatric evaluation for the possibility of being a sociopath. Relying upon the societal norms of this country, and the fact that young people are very impressionable, one would have to be borderline pyschotic to try something like this with the expectation of getting away with it. Pending the results of the evaluation, a thorough search of this man’s property would probably also be in order, because an incident like this would probably not happen in and of itself, but rather as a continuation of a pattern of behavior.

      • Torturing animals is one of the signs of psychopathic or antisocial behavior.

        He seemed to think his actions were neat or cool. Disturbing.

    • So, what you are essentially saying is that dogs, who use the majority of their brain function for analyzing smells, who lick their own private parts, and greet others of their species by sniffing their anal orifice, are more likely to make choices you find more agreeable? I should have stopped reading after the opening salvo of “I cannot wait until dogs have the right to vote”.

  2. Scientific experiment

    The teacher could have pulled up this video to show the power of a snapping turtle jaw. 22 million viewers said yes. The bite is about 1200lb per square inch.

  3. We have a special relationship with dogs in the West. It is simply not the same as feeding mice to the turtle. From Lassie to Rin Tin Tin to every police and service dog, and every pet or hunting dog. If this teacher was unaware of our special relationship to the first domesticated animal he is an abject moron. I suspect our general fondness for dogs and the shock his act would cause the students was the very motivation for this stunt. If a grown man wants to convince kids he’s an edgy bad-ass he should seek a career in professional wrestling, not education.

  4. Turley made a good point. When we see a wounded opossum in the road, we go around it or just leave it to die. If it is a kitten or puppy or cardinal (bird), we feel bad and stop. We place value on life according to its value to us. NOTWITHSTANDING, no one is talking about the fact that local veterinarians would have done this for free, humanely. A few were interviewed. There is no question in my mind that Crosland, who has as affinity for snakes but apparently not puppies, did something wrong. Totally ignorant of the fear, anxiety, and god-awful pain the puppy went through. And apparently parts of the community are equally ignorant. To justify that Crosland treated their children well and therefore is a good person was so simplistically naive I winced.

  5. This wasn’t a farm lesson in the cycle of life. This was a reptilian celebration of giving pleasure by torturing an innocent life. I’m sure the teacher makes science very interesting, but I would send a forensics team to dig out his basement anyway.

  6. The neccesity to feed live animals to a predator in class is unnecessary. There are enough nature shows and videos to do this. Watching an animal suffer in a class is nothing less then voyeurism. I grew up on and around a farm. No joy in slaughtering an animal. Clearly no reason to do these acts in a class.

  7. My grandfather would drown kittens when the farm cats had too many. And doesn’t that school feed the kids meat at lunch? Hypocrisy.

  8. Any sentient being knows this would traumatize children and adults. This teacher has real psychological problems. Get him out of the classroom and into jail — preferably a jail of dog lovers.

  9. There is an underside to lost animals that the general public is not aware, but occurs in many rural areas none-the-less having small towns and limited dog pounds and services.

    While the statutes permitted it, departments were forced largely in necessity to dispatch stray and uncollected animals by shooting them with handguns rather than humane euthanasia by drugs. I’m not talking about a wounded elk on the highway, but pet animals.

    Two factors worked against putting down animals with drugs. First was cost. Small towns in rural areas cannot afford to hire their own animal control officer or that contracting with the county is either expensive or the dog pounds are far away. They might have a holding pen but it is just a temporary measure in trying to locate the owner to collect the dog. If nobody comes along the dog is put down.

    The other factor relates to the administration of barbiturates to euthanize the dog. In our state, there is a bureaucratic mess that a LEO would have to go through in order to become authorized to inject the dog, it involves both training and continuing education. The other is that the DEA requires complete accounting for storage, administration, and control of the drug. It really is a pain and not something most chiefs want to deal with. And then there is the cost of all of this. and it is far greater in terms of time and money than a bullet or two.

    In my opinion humanity dictates that a dog be put down in the least painful and drastic way. I’d rather be able to simply inject a dog and put it down, than to shoot it. But the system prevents LEOs from doing otherwise. And that is sad.

  10. On what basis do animals have any rights? The hypocrisy of those who eat meat but are offended by another predator killing and eating its prey should not stand up in a court of law. The rule is intolerably vague and hypocritical. The teacher should fight this tooth and nail. I for one do not like the fact that lions at zoos are fed cat food instead of live prey.

      • Jim22: Animals do have rights. They are protected by the rule of law against neglect, cruelty and anything that threatens their survival, at a minimum. I know it’s fashionable to ignore the rule of law in the Trumpian dystopia of today, but he hasn’t yet revoked animal rights.

    • You seem to be lacking the ability to understand the greater human interest of this story. I believe Darren had written a post years ago about animal cruelty and its relationship to criminal behavior.

  11. My 8th grade general science teacher once prepared a nicotine solution with which he injected a lab rat. The rat died in agony.

    I suppose this was supposed to keep the children from trying cigarettes.

  12. These little snowflakes have got to toughen up. Geez, what a bunch of wimps!!! I remember the days when people would take a bunch of puppies, put them in a gunny sack and throw them in a creek. Did no one see The Lion King? It is the Circle of Life, Dudes!!!

      • Oh, I have. Except it was unwanted litters of semi-feral cats that were supposedly bagged up and tossed into the river.

        I never knew anybody who admitted to doing it, but I definitely heard the story when I was growing up. I never quite understood why they were tossed into the river. Do you have a clearer conscious after tossing a bag of kittens into the river to drown than killing them some other way? It never made sense to me.

        • I know older people who grew up on farms where they would drown kittens. No one fixed their cats in those days, and farms would be overrun with cats. That’s why they did it. They didn’t toss them in a river to float away, but drowned them in a bag in a barrel. I suppose some would use a river so they wouldn’t have to do anything with the poor dead kittens. Animals were not pets on farms, for the most part. I knew someone whose Mom was given a pet steer. She babied it and it would follow her around all day when she was home. It would take a nap with his head in her lap. One night she found out she’d eaten it for dinner. Her parents had slaughtered him and served him to her without mentioning it until after dinner.

          You don’t eat pets, and you don’t feed pet animals to other animals. That’s a pretty good rule to live by.

          Thank God I didn’t grow up in those times.

      • Bob, Esq. – not so long ago we had a thread about dogs either injuring or killing someone (cannot remember). That, too, is the Circle of Life. We have coyotes here who take care of our loose cat and small dog problem. And my dog, who is extremely territorial, has killed two of my neighbor’s kittens when they broke into our back yard and were not fast enough to get out in time. I have seen domestic cattle that were brought down by wolves or cougars (not pretty).

        Who was it it: Manute Bol who said “I have killed a lion, I am not afraid of Shaq.”

  13. How about we put the teacher into a tank full of piranhas? That might be equally instructive, from a biology class perspective.

  14. Merriam-Webster defines Animal in pertinent part as:

    Any of a kingdom (Animalia) of living things including many-celled organisms and often many of the single-celled ones (such as protozoans) that typically differ from plants in having cells without cellulose walls, in lacking chlorophyll and the capacity for photosynthesis, in requiring more complex food materials (such as proteins), in being organized to a greater degree of complexity, and in having the capacity for spontaneous movement and rapid motor responses to stimulation.

    This encompasses an entire kingdom of taxonomy, yet Idaho law makes, in my search, no definition of Animal. So if a prosecutor charges based on a dog thrown into boiling water, what about shrimp or a crab? Is whether an animal is property defined or cruelty exacted against such animal to be decided somewhat arbitrarily by a trier of fact or law? What animals are considered dear or adored surly is often dependent upon the culture of the jurisdiction as surely as our culture demands greater sanctions against harm perpetrated against the elderly or very young and thus in reaction to this laws are crafted accordingly. Perhaps it must be better define which animals are in order for the statutes to be protected from a vagueness challenge. Yet in doing so we again return to the problem of what constitutes a protected animal and the conflict between food preferences and the law of nature.

    I don’t believe the public should be legally mandated to adopt veganism and prohibited from hunting or rodeo just because an over-zealot attains elected office.

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