A teacher who fed a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of pupils has been found not guilty of animal cruelty.
Robert Crosland, a science teacher at Preston Junior High School in Idaho, USA, was charged with misdemeanour animal cruelty in June.
The incident took place out of timetabled hours, but local reports claim four students were present at the time.
Witnesses in court said the puppy briefly swam around in the tank before being dragged to the bottom by the snapping turtle, but Mr Crosland was found not guilty by the jury.
His lawyer also argued that 'we don't believe a crime was committed'. Had he been convicted, he could have faced up to six months in jail and a $5,000 (£3,900) fine.
Mr Crosland told the court that he was 'putting the puppy out of its misery'. Credit: Franklin County Sheriff's Office
The science teacher told investigators he was only 'putting the puppy out of its misery', as it was reportedly emaciated and had a number of deformities.
He said: "I honestly thought I was doing the right thing. That's what's been so hard in seeing all this because that's what I've been taught my whole life - not to let the animal suffer."
Following the incident, the snapping turtle was seized and euthanized on the grounds that it wasn't a native species, according to The Mirror.
The snapping turtle was reportedly euthanized. Credit: PA
A petition was also set up by parents to get Mr Crosland sacked, amassing more than 240,000 signatures.
The petition read: "This is an extreme example of extremely poor judgement. Even if the puppy was so sick it was eventually going to die, Crosland should not have fed it to a snapping turtle, especially while still alive. There are humane ways to deal with dying animals.
"Studies show that people who commit violence against animals are more likely to commit violence against people. Do we really want teachers killing living animals in front of impressionable junior high students?
"Robert Crosland's actions were sick and disturbing. Please sign this petition urging Preston School District Superintendent Marc Gee to fire Crosland now."
Animal rights activists also blasted Mr Crosland in the aftermath of the incident.
Campaigner, Jill Parrish, said: "Allowing children to watch an innocent baby puppy scream because it is being fed to an animal. That is violence. That is not okay."
However, a counter-petition supporting Mr Crosland was signed by 4,000 people, according to the Idaho Statesman.
After being exonerated, Mr Crosland thanked the Preston community for their support.
He said: "It's really what got me through all this, just their comments and talking to me and expressing their love."
Featured Image Credit: Franklin County Sheriff's Office