A science teacher accused of feeding a sick puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students has been charged with misdemeanour animal cruelty.
Robert Crosland, who worked at Preston Junior School in Idaho, faces up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine if he is convicted.
Several parents of children at the school complained after Crosland, who was charged on Friday, allegedly fed the dog to the turtle on 7 March.
The snapping turtle was euthanised as a non-native species after it was seized by state officials several weeks later.
Several current and former students have cited Crosland as being a well-liked teacher who kept exotic animals such as snakes and other animals in tanks in his classroom, the New York Post reports.
It adds that three former students, who asked not to be named, said they remembered Crosland feeding guinea pigs to snapping turtles during class.
He is said to have fed a sick puppy to one of the turtles during an after-school feeding session, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Local animal activist Jill Parrish filed a police report after hearing about the allegations, the Utah-based TV station KSTU reports.
She told the network: “Allowing children to watch an innocent baby puppy scream because it is being fed to an animal – that is violence.
“That is not okay.”
The Idaho attorney general’s office handled the investigation after Franklin County prosecutor Vic Pearson cited a conflict of interest.
The animal rights activist group PETA has claimed that Crosland is “known for feeding guinea pigs to reptiles during lessons”.
They added that he is a “bully who should not be allowed near impressionable young people”.
Stephanie Bell, PETA’s senior director of cruelty casework, said: “Any youngster who witnessed cruelty in the classroom is now in desperate need of lessons about having empathy for other living beings.”
The story caused widespread outrage with an online petition set up calling for Crosland to be fired. It has collected more than 189,000 signatures.
Former students, community members and others have shown support for Crosland in an online petition that has topped 3,700 signatures.
Snapping turtles are native to parts of Canada and the US, but are considered an invasive species in Idaho.
They eat both plants and animals and have powerful beak-like jaws.
Snapping turtles have been known to eat small fish, snakes, insects, frogs and small birds.