Animal Groups Urge Indiana to Correct Legal Snafu that Has Allowed Abuse of Turtles at Annual Event as Appalling Footage from Indiana’s Snapperfest 2011 Is Released

Indianapolis – This morning, the national non-profits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Best Friends Animal Society submitted a petition for rulemaking to the Indiana Natural Resources Commission, arguing that the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) misinterpretation of state law has allowed for illegal cruelty at Ohio County’s annual “Snapperfest.” Never before seen undercover footage provided by the World Animal Awareness Society – at last summer’s Snapperfest—an event where “contestants” demonstrate their prowess by pulling the heads of live turtles far outside of their shells—reveals numerous acts of cruelty that are in violation of state law. However, the DNR has condoned these actions by stating that Snapperfest participants are exempt from anti-cruelty law under an exception for activities including hunting and trapping, because, so they say, the turtles were trapped prior to their mistreatment at Snapperfest. ALDF and Best Friends Animal Society’s petition asks the Commission to clarify that this exception does not and should not apply to the turtles at Snapperfest—which would render the appalling conduct at the annual event illegal. The petition was filed locally by the Law Offices of Lawrence M. Reuben.

Why are animal advocates and attorneys sticking their necks out for snapping turtles? The undercover video shot at Snapperfest in August 2011 and released today reveals:

  • Turtles held by their tails, which can cause severe damage to their vertebra and internal organs.
  • Turtles repeatedly dropped and thrown to the ground during relays in which contestants run while carrying them.
  • Turtles’ heads pulled out of their shells and turtles held up by their heads during the “main event.” Footage shows contestants violently wrestling on the ground with terrified turtles in an effort to pull their necks out of their shells.

Recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally neglecting a vertebrate animal, as is done during Snapperfest, is a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana.
“While an exception to Indiana’s cruelty statute states that it does not apply to fishing, hunting, or trapping, it does not allow for wanton abuse of any animal after that animal has been trapped,” explains ALDF’s director of litigation Carter Dillard. “The Department of Natural Resources’ misinterpretation of this law has allowed the shameful abuse of turtles at Snapperfest for the past fifteen years—and would literally allow someone to torture a turtle, a deer, a coyote, or any animal to death, so long as that animal had been trapped first. It is time for this legal misinterpretation to be corrected and for the state to put an end to this pathetic event once and for all.”
Copies of the petition to the Natural Resources Commission and footage of the 2011 Snapperfest investigation are available upon request. Spokespeople in Indianapolis are available for interviews.
ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit
Best Friends Animal Society is a nonprofit organization that strives to create a better world through kindness to animals while building no-kill programs and partnerships that will bring about a day when there are No More Homeless Pets®.  For more information, please visit
World Animal Awareness Society – is a domestic 501(c)3 non-profit public charity, incorporated for the purpose of filming contemporary human-animal interactions and collecting non-biased visual data to share with the world. For more information, visit the World Animal Awareness Society here: