By Kent Harris, from Stars and Stripes in the USA:
Panel suggests adding animal cruelty to UCMJ
European edition, Wednesday, June 24, 2009
A panel formed to review the military justice system will recommend that animal cruelty be added as a charge to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a panel member.
The issue of servicemembers abusing, killing or abandoning their pets
Quite often, this is done by soldiers who normally never would do such things. But who are suffering from illnesses like PTSD which they got from wars like in Iraq or Afghanistan. Like domestic violence by some soldiers or veterans, or violence against fellow soldiers or veterans, many of those instances of cruelty to animals can be seen as the violence of Bush’s wars spilling over into homelife. So, these cases cannot be dismissed as the work of “bad apple” individuals, and of them alone.
was one of the topics reviewed by the 2009 Commission on Military Justice, a nonprofit corporation formed in 1991 to improve public understanding of the military justice system. The commission held a public hearing in Washington last week. …
There is currently no language in the UCMJ to address criminal actions against animals, other than military working dogs. …
Animal cruelty is a felony in more than 30 states [in the USA], with those convicted facing five-year maximum sentences in many states.
Supporters of a new UCMJ charge for animal cruelty said they were pleased with news of the recommendation.
Louise Harris, who is British and married to a retired airman once based at Aviano Air Base in Italy, said she was “extremely encouraged by it.”
Harris, who for years has lobbied for such a charge, said the lack of language in the UCMJ has allowed Americans to get away with killing their pets in a handful of cases around Aviano. …
She said she believed the situation was the worst in Italy, because local justice systems in countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany are more responsive to animal cruelty cases.
Christine Kohls, a German married to an American soldier stationed in Heidelberg, said there are German laws that apply, but jurisdiction on such cases can be tricky.
“It’s such a gray zone,” said Kohls, who serves as a volunteer liaison at a local German animal shelter.
Though an owner often can be identified through microchips placed in the animal, Americans sometimes choose to leave their pets behind when they move, she said. Locals who do that are committing a crime and so are Americans, even if they currently avoid punishment.