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Animal carcass abuse alleged at Newport Beach school

June 25, 2012 |  2:49 pm

An animal-rights organization is accusing Newport Harbor High School students of mistreating cat carcasses intended for dissection in class and then publishing the images online.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C.-based organization opposed to vivisection, wrote a letter to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District last week asserting that parents were concerned about graphic photos of dismembered cats appearing on Facebook.

The organization sent images of the Facebook pages to the Daily Pilot, but their authenticity could not be independently verified. One image shows a severed cat's head in a student's locker, and others show dead cats posed with students in what appears to be a classroom.

School board President Dave Brooks said the district is investigating. Because a probe is ongoing, Brooks said he could not discuss possible repercussions for students.

Brooks said he suspected the actions amounted to "students being students" and none of the alleged behaviors appeared to be malicious or harmful but that the school district is still determining exactly what happened.

In its letter, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommended that any students involved be referred for physiological evaluation, the district interview the science teacher whose classroom used the cats for dissection and classroom activities using animal carcasses be suspended.

"Abundant medical literature shows that children who abuse animals are more likely to be abusive toward human beings later in life," the letter read. "In this context, animal abuse includes callous behavior toward animals killed for other purposes.

"Cats," the letter said, "are especially common targets."

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-- Lauren Williams

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