PRESTON, Idaho – A jury found a Preston, Idaho science teacher not guilty of animal cruelty Friday.
Robert Crosland faced the charge after feeding a puppy to a snapping turtle in front of a few students last year.
A relieved Crosland spoke to the media for the first time after hearing the verdict.
“I would just like to thank you for all of the support I've received,” Crosland said.
In opening statements, Crosland's attorney admitted there was no question about whether or not Crosland fed a sick, dying puppy to a snapping turtle in front of four students. The question was whether it was a crime.
“Regardless of whether it was a puppy, an elk or a deer for that matter, it doesn't matter in the eyes of the law,” defense attorney Shane Reichart said. “There is no distinction between domesticated animals in the eyes of the law.”
Crosland's son, Mario, was emotional on the witness stand, saying his dad fed the puppy to the turtle because it was sick. “If you can lose a life to help another, then why not?” Mario asked.
Prosecutors called four students to the stand, all minors. Each one testified they were there when Crosland first fed the puppy to his pet snake. When the snake didn`t respond, the students say Crosland put the puppy in with the snapping turtle, which dragged the puppy to the bottom of its tank where it then ate it.
“He was just trying to do what was the best interest of his animals. Trying not to waste a life and teach the circle of life, and that's how things work.”
Crosland’s family supported him from the very beginning.
“Everybody was pulling for Robert,” his brother David said. “And it was, it was a big relief and I visited with several people that didn't know him and they felt the same way.”
Robert Crosland said he felt the support of the community.
“I'd like to thank this community for staying behind me,” he said. “It's really what got me through all of this, just their comments and talking to me and expressing their love for me.”