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Florida Teacher Accused of Drowning Animals in Class Demonstration Could Be Charged With Animal Cruelty

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News covering the Florida teacher who was accused of drowning raccoons with the participation of his students is now under scrutiny for potentially breaking state law, according to state agencies investigating the incident. According to some, the teacher’s actions violate the regulations of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida animal cruelty laws, and County school board policies.

According to reported eyewitness accounts, the teacher allegedly trapped and killed two raccoons and an opossum with student participation because he deemed them to be “nuisance wildlife.” The animals were then allegedly placed in wire cages inside garbage cans, which were filled with water, and routinely submerged until they died.

Florida Law: “Nuisance Wildlife”

Under Florida state law, it is legal to take “nuisance” wildlife. However, there are specific requirements that accompany killing nuisance wildlife, including that the wildlife captured should be released or euthanized within 24 hours of capture and euthanasia must be “humane,” as defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). It must also be carried out in the most rapid, painless, and distress-free manner.

Drowning has technically been deemed to be inhumane by the AVMA. For these reasons, many animal advocates now claim that the teacher violated state law.

Florida Animal Cruelty Laws

The teacher is also likely being investigated under Florida’s animal cruelty law. Anyone who intentionally commits an act to any animal that results in cruel death or unnecessary pain or suffering is guilty of aggravated animal cruelty, which is a third-degree felony. While in some states, the definition of “animal” does not include wildlife such as raccoons or opossums (only dogs and cats, for example), in Florida, an “animal,” as covered under the statute, is defined to include “every living dumb creature.”

To be found guilty of animal cruelty in Florida, the statute only requires that the offender “intentionally commit an act,” not that they had the mental intent to inflict a cruel death or unnecessary suffering. It is entirely possible that the teacher in this circumstance will be found to fit within these requirements, and he could be prosecuted for animal cruelty, which carries a $10,000 fine and a maximum of five years in prison as a third-degree felony.

In addition, anyone who is found to have committed aggravated animal cruelty against more than one animal can be charged separately for each offense; thus, the teacher in this circumstance could be charged with three counts of aggravated cruelty, which could carry a sentence of up to 15 years (in consecutive, back-to-back sentences).

Florida Criminal Defense of Animal Cruelty Charges

If a formal investigation is conducted, the teacher could be hindered in searching for employment in another school district because there are also provisions of the Florida Administrative Code for the Education Profession that could have potentially been violated here. 

If you have been charged with animal cruelty or similar offenses in the state of Florida, it is imperative that you consult an experienced criminal defense attorney right away not only to help potentially fight criminal charges, but protect your reputation so that your chances of employment in the future are not negatively affected. Contact the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.

Resources:

flrules.elaws.us/fac/6A-5.056

washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2018/05/16/florida-teacher-on-leave-after-he-is-accused-of-drowning-raccoons-in-class/?utm_term=.fc9b36c0ecd8

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0800-0899/0828/Sections/0828.12.html

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