Battery Creek High School anatomy and physiology teacher Jeri Williams received a $500 grant from the Northern Beaufort County Education Foundation to buy the cadaver cats for her students to dissect, The Beaufort Gazette reported Monday.
A photo of Williams along with an explanation of the grant was printed in the newspaper Jan. 10, along with the caption "We're looking forward to dissecting some cats."
The story prompted Beaufort resident Kate Zalusky to start an online petition to ban cat dissections in the county's public schools.
"Asking students to dissect or watch a companion animal being dissected as part of their class assignments can be a traumatic experience," she said.
"If the point is to learn of the animal's anatomy, there are virtual, online programs and other alternatives, such as observing college students perform dissections who are training to be doctors or veterinarians, which are a more fruitful way of accomplishing the same thing, and less expensive," Zalusky said.
Williams said she disagrees with Zalusky.
"The reason we chose the particular vertebrate [cat] is to give the students an overall understanding of the human body," she wrote in an email. "The structures of a cat are very closely related to a human, and the size of the cat allows students to see the structures more vividly."
Williams said students are informed that dissections will be involved in the class when they sign up for it and they have the option to sign up for similar courses that don't require dissection.
Meanwhile, more than 80 people have signed Zalusky's petition.