Case Snapshot
Case ID: 3619
Classification: Other
Animal: rodent/small mammal (pet), rabbit (pet)
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Wednesday, Jan 19, 2005

County: Geauga

Disposition: Not Charged

Person of Interest: 16 year old boy

A Guinea pig and rabbit purchased from a Geauga County pet store ended up on plates at Ledgemont High School. A 16-year-old student skinned and cooked the animals during a living skills class on Wednesday, prompting student and parent complaints to the Thompson Township Police Department and Geauga Humane Society. Officials at both agencies said they are investigating.

The incident may warrant animal cruelty charges, said Geauga Humane Officer Sarah Westman. She said it's illegal to needlessly kill "companion animals" raised for domestic purposes.

"Something irrational and wrong happened," Westman said.

Ledgemont Principal Beto Gage acknowledged that "misjudgments" took place but said the boy's actions are far from criminal.

The student - whose name was not released - described what he did in terms of harvesting meat to fix a dish for classmates, Gage said.

The principal described the boy as an active hunter. The Ledgemont district covers the rural communities of Montville and Thompson townships, where killing - and then eating - wild game is fairly common.

The hunt, however, usually doesn't take place at Pet Supplies Plus.

The boy went to the Chardon store and purchased the Guinea pig and rabbit after coming up empty in the great outdoors.

"My skin's crawling over this," said Linda Schempp, a spokeswoman for the pet store chain. "We sell our animals to be family pets - not food."

The student told Gage that he butchered the animals at home before bringing them to school and placing them in the class refrigerator Wednesday. His living skills teacher, Diana Stevens, sets aside that day for her students to prepare a meal of their choice, Gage said.

The boy had asked Stevens if he could catch and cook a wild rabbit.

She approved, providing he dress - or gut - the carcass before class, the principal said.

A few students became alarmed, however, when the boy took two furry carcasses out of a bag.

Stevens allowed him to skin the animals and go ahead with the food preparation. Those in the fourth-period class who didn't want to watch were allowed to go into an adjoining room, Gage said. Meat carved off the animals was cooked and then sampled.

Westman said she's horrified that the school let the incident take place.

"What are you teaching kids about compassion for animals if you allow something like this to go on inside a classroom? Westman asked. "This is way, way out of bounds."

Guidelines in the living skills class will be changed to prevent a similar event, Gage said.


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