Idaho teacher accused of feeding a live puppy to a snapping turtle while students watch

A teacher at Preston Junior High is accused of feeding an ailing puppy to a snapping turtle on March 7. A parent reported the incident to police as a case of animal cruelty.
A teacher at Preston Junior High is accused of feeding an ailing puppy to a snapping turtle on March 7. A parent reported the incident to police as a case of animal cruelty. Wichita Eagle

Idaho Department of Agriculture officials said in a press release Friday that they euthanized the snapping turtle seized earlier this week from a junior high science teacher accused of animal cruelty.

The teacher, Robert Crosland, has been accused of feeding a live puppy to the turtle.

The turtle was seized by Fish & Game officials on Tuesday. The Department of Agriculture, which enforces provisions of the Invasive Species Act, euthanized the turtle on Wednesday.

The news was greeted with surprise and disappointment by some of those following the case.

“Why was the turtle punished by being euthanized for something the teacher caused,” Utah resident Elvie Devor asked in an email to the Statesman on Friday. “He should be punished, not the animal. Something is very wrong with this ... this is getting worse than better.”

In its release Friday, agriculture officials said relocation of invasive animals, including snapping turtles, is complex due to stress on the animal, lack of suitable release sites, and disease spread to other wildlife, livestock, companion animals and people.

This is a breaking news update on a story we published last night.

Read that here:

A Preston junior high school teacher accused of feeding a live puppy to a snapping turtle has lost his pet turtle — and could be facing a misdemeanor criminal charge, according to a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The science teacher, identified by the Idaho State Journal as Robert Crosland, is under investigation for alleged animal cruelty after a Preston resident filed a complaint with police.

The incident has caused a tidal wave of public outrage, with many condemning the teacher and the school district. The Statesman has received calls and emails from people all over the country.

The story of the teacher feeding the puppy to the turtle, with students present, has not been confirmed by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office or school officials — though the school put out a news release about a “regrettable” animal feeding after school on March 7.

Charlie Justus, regional conservation officer for Idaho Fish and Game, said officials with his agency and the Idaho Department of Agriculture seized the turtle from Crosland on Thursday.

Snapping turtles are considered an invasive species in Idaho.

“They compete with our natural wildlife,” Justus said.

Snapping turtles can be found up and down the Boise River, Justus said, but a person must get a permit to keep one. A person found to have one without a permit can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Justus wasn’t sure what would happen to the turtle. He said it would either be euthanized or shipped out of state to be made available for adoption.

The Idaho Humane Society, the state’s oldest and largest animal welfare organization, on Wednesday called for a thorough investigation into the alleged mistreatment of the puppy — and also whether the snapping turtle was legally owned.

Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, executive director of the Idaho Humane Society, said Thursday that he was glad to hear that authorities were investigating the ownership of the turtle.

Citing conflict of interest, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office has handed the animal cruelty case off to another prosecutor in the 6th Judicial District. They have not disclosed to the Statesman which prosecutor is now handling the case.

“The community has many questions that we hope can be answered, and the matter resolved through the correct due process,” Rosenthal said.

The Preston community has rallied around Crosland. More than 3,000 people have signed an online petition in support of the longtime science teacher. There are several online petitions calling for Crosland to be fired, and one has nearly 88,000 signatures.

The Preston woman who reported the turtle feeding incident to police told the Statesman she’s been threatened by local residents, and some people who are upset at Crosland have published his phone number and address on social media.

Rosenthal encouraged the public to remain calm while the legal process runs its course.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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