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Mediate to Rehabilitate: What We Can Learn from the Case of the Teacher, the Puppy and the Snapping Turtle

When animal cruelty divides a whole community, mediation can step in to rehabilitate. Sadly, when an Idaho teacher allegedly fed a puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students, conflict, not conflict resolution, was the result. The teacher was known for delivering engaging science lessons and was well-loved by students, making the situation more emotionally complicated for the community. Many in the town of Preston, Idaho, rallied behind the teacher and criticized the woman who filed the complaint. Meanwhile the wider internet took up a different position and called for the teacher to be fired. The story took a sad turn when the Idaho Department of Agriculture seized the snapping turtle (which it seems was not legally owned), and euthanized it under the Invasive Species Act. In the end, two animals died as a result of this incident, and there’s a chance the teacher’s career (and reputation) could be in jeopardy too.

Ordinary People Are Capable of Animal Cruelty

Some people may find it difficult to understand how people accused of animal cruelty couldn’t be dismissed as “bad” people. But social and family conditioning can be a huge factor in animal cruelty, as well as the person’s emotional state. Everyone, not just those who commit animal cruelty, is exposed to society’s inhumane conception of animals. At Boileau Conflict Solutions, we maintain that the first step to successfully mediating a dispute involving animals is recognizing that they have legitimate life interests just like humans do. Both legally and culturally, animals are often considered the property of people. We change the goalposts of disputes by considering the best interests of animals, so parties don’t have to remain locked in intractable positions with animals as collateral.

Rehabilitation of Offenders and the Community

Perhaps the most important reason why animal rights mediation is the right choice for a conflict like this is that dispute resolution (unlike going through the traditional legal channels, or taking disciplinary action) has the potential to rehabilitate people who are cruel to animals or uneducated about animal cruelty. This also has the effect of helping people to understand each other across community divides — for example some community members support the teacher and others are outraged. The teacher’s actions may be a result of an unreflective attitude to animals that is automatic, but can be changed.

Practical Solutions

Another unfortunate result of this conflict was that the teacher’s snapping turtle was euthanized. The Idaho Department of Agriculture has said that it is difficult to reintroduce “invasive species” to their correct habitat. Re-homing animals that need to be shipped out of state is also an expensive process. Our mediation services can involve third parties like animal charities who can find solutions to take care of animals. There is no reason why animals have to die unnecessarily.

How We Can Help

Animal Rights mediation solves a huge range of disputes involving animals, but also future-proofs disputes by coming to good agreements that pave the way for positive change in the community. We handle disputes using a set of unique approaches informed by game theory, communication theory, psychoanalysis and the law. We are able to work on the deeper, emotional issues that cause people to become locked in conflict. We are available seven days a week and at urgent notice at our offices in Boulder, CO, Irvine, CA, Campbell, CA and LA. We can also be reached via Zoom, Facetime and Telephone and conflict resolution can also be arranged remotely. Please contact us now to see how we can help with your animal dispute.

Read more about this case: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article205430089.html

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