Because it is considered an invasive species, Idaho officials said they have “humanely” euthanized a snapping turtle that had been kept in a Preston classroom and allegedly was fed a live, terminally ill puppy last week.
Police responded to Preston Junior High School on March 8 in response of a complaint of animal cruelty, according to the Franklin County sheriff’s office. Four days later, the office submitted reports to Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Vic Pearson for a review of potential animal cruelty charges against science teacher Robert Crosland.
Pearson, due to a conflict, turned the case over to a prosecutor in another district for review, as sheriff’s officers continued to investigate, according to a news release.
Law enforcement also contacted the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, responsible for implementing provisions of the state’s Invasive Species Act, the department said. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game seized the turtle March 13. The next day, it was handed over to the Department of Agriculture, which “humanely” euthanized it.
“Snapping turtles are highly-adaptable, top-tier predators in their habitat,” the department wrote in a Friday news release. “The public is urged to avoid propagating invasive species or from bringing them in to Idaho from other states and countries.”
The department also said Crosland didn’t have a permit for the animal.
The department asked that anyone in possession of an invasive species contact the agriculture department.
“A permit application can be reviewed and a number of factors are taken into consideration before a permit may be issued,” the department wrote. “Not all situations are eligible for a permit.”
Meanwhile, police officers were stationed outside the junior high and other schools in the Preston School District after someone posted threats of violence online in reaction to accusations against the teacher. District administrators said Thursday that the threats did not pose a credible risk to student safety.
FBI officials in Salt Lake City confirmed Thursday that they had been contacted by ldaho law enforcement about the threats and were prepared to provide assistance, if requested.
The story that Crosland reportedly fed the sick and dying puppy to the turtle last week has caused a sharp reaction from animal rights groups and their supporters.
According to a friend of Crosland, he did feed the puppy to the turtle, but other details surrounding the story have gotten twisted and misconstrued.
“It’s really hard on a small community, like Preston, to watch them tear apart somebody that everybody loves,” River McKay, a former student and “really good friend” of Crosland said Tuesday.
McKay, who learned what happened from the mother of two of the boys who saw the after-school feeding, relayed the story to a Salt Lake Tribune reporter.
Someone — McKay didn’t know who — brought a sick, deformed and abandoned puppy to Crosland, a man reportedly well-known for taking in hurt and sick animals.
Three boys were in the classroom, helping Crosland feed his animals after school had ended.
The puppy was dying. Crosland couldn’t get the puppy to eat or drink, McKay said, and was beyond saving. The person who brought it in knew it needed to be put down.
Crosland put the puppy into the snapping turtle’s tank, where it drowned and was eaten, according to McKay.
The three boys who watched all work on farms and understood what was happening, according to the mother of two of the boys.
But a school staff member overheard and started yelling at Crosland, then reportedly sent details of what happened via text message to a woman who on March 8 filed a police report.
Neither the Preston School District nor Preston Junior High School responded to requests for comment. The Salt Lake Tribune has been unable to reach Crosland. As of earlier this week, he was still in his classroom, pending the results of the district’s investigation, the Associated Press reported.