A TEACHER who fed a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of horrified students has been cleared of animal cruelty.

Robert Crosland threw the baby pooch into the predator’s tank at Preston Junior High School in Idaho in March.

He was later charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty back in June but a jury cleared him after his lawyer argued that "we don't believe a crime was committed".

The puppy was sick and was said to have been close to death when it met its grisly end.

Horrified witnesses told the court how it swam around frantically before being dragged to the bottom of the tank by the turtle.

But Crosland insisted he was simply "putting the puppy out of its misery" in evidence to jurors.

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."

Crosland faced a $5,000 (£3,750) fine if convicted and six months in jail.

Snapping turtles are omnivores in the wild, meaning they eat both plants and animals.

They have razor sharp beak-like mouths and prey on nearly anything they can get their powerful jaws around.

The reptiles eat insects, fish, frogs, snakes, birds, small mammals and even other turtles.

They are known to kill by dragging their prey beneath the water to drown it, or by simply biting its head off.

The charge came after nearly 200,000 people signed a petition calling for the educator to be sacked.

The petition read: “This is an extreme example of extremely poor judgment.

“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.”

Animal lovers were even more incensed when the turtle was later put down by authorities because Crosland didn’t have a proper permit for it.

The school is in rural Preston, where the 2004 teen cult classic film "Napoleon Dynamite" was set.