An Idaho science teacher who made national headlines after feeding a sick puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students was found not guilty of animal cruelty on Friday.
Robert Crosland, a teacher at Preston Junior High School in the city of Preston, never disputed that he fed the puppy to his classroom turtle back in March, Fox 13 Salt Lake City reports. Crosland and his defense contended that the incident was a humane act of mercy toward the puppy, which he said was very ill and near death.
“I honestly thought I was doing the right thing by putting it out of its misery,” said Crosland in a recorded interview played during his two-day trial, according to local news station KIFI. The teacher was facing one charge of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Crosland said that he had the sick puppy because his son, Mario Crosland, had gotten the animal from a local farmer whose dog had given birth and believed the puppies were taxing the mother’s health, according to East Idaho News. Mario Crosland testified that the puppy was very sick and refused to eat, and he believed that the dog’s death was imminent. That’s when Robert Crosland decided he would feed the puppy to one of his classroom animals.
The feeding happened after the school day was over, in the presence of three students who were in the classroom. The mother of two of the boys had defended the teacher’s actions earlier this year, and the students testified during the trial they had no issue with what happened.
According to their testimony, per East Idaho News, Crosland first attempted to feed the puppy to a python, which did not eat the puppy. The teacher then placed the puppy in the snapping turtle’s tank, where the canine briefly swam before the turtle dragged it to the bottom of the tank, drowned it and ate it.
The students who were present all testified in court that they did not have any issue with Crosland feeding the puppy to the turtle.
The attention that the incident garnered also ultimately led to the death of the snapping turtle, which is an invasive species in Idaho for which Crosland did not have the proper permit. After hearing about what happened in March, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture seized and killed the turtle.
A jury came back with a not-guilty verdict after deliberating for about half an hour. After the trial, Crosland expressed gratitude to the local community for supporting him.
He remains a teacher at Preston Junior High School.