updated 3/24/2004 3:57:32 PM ET 2004-03-24T20:57:32

A high school science teacher killed a pair of day-old rabbits with a shovel as her stunned class looked on, then asked the students to help bury the sickly animals, authorities said.

Plant City High School teacher Jane Bender will not face criminal charges, but authorities brought two civil counts of animal cruelty that carry fines of $620.

Investigators said Bender killed the rabbits last month and buried them in a field near the school’s agricultural lab with two others from the same litter that had died. The rabbits — about the size of chicken eggs — were not likely to survive on their own.

Bender told investigators that she asked a student to dig a hole, but the class refused to help in burying the rabbits, Hillsborough County sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Rod Reder said.

“We felt this person had to be held accountable. It’s just not what we want to teach people to do with injured or sick animals,” said Dennis McCullough, the county’s Animal Services investigator.

Calls to phone numbers listed to a Jane Bender in Plant City and nearby Tampa went unanswered Wednesday.

The civil penalties require Bender to pay $310 for each count, or request a court hearing where she can appeal the fine.

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