In a report released on October 19 to Congress, The Commission on Military Justice says that criminal charges should be brought against those in service that abuse, kill or abandon their pets. They ask that specific language be placed in The Uniform Code of Military Justice that makes Animal Cruelty towards non-public animals a crime.
In their letter to the Department of Defense, the Commission states:
“Currently there is not an adequate mechanism for holding these service members criminally accountable when they abuse or abandon these non-public animals”
As of now, The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) punishes abuse of a “public animal” under Article 134, known as the general article. But there are no laws addressing treatment of pets, which are legally considered “non-public animals.”
Nowhere in the UCMJ is there any language to suggest that animal abuse is behavior unbecoming of a serviceman. Article 134 of the UCMJ is a catch-all article that is commonly used to address offenses not specifically listed in the code and charges of animal cruelty can, in theory, be brought upon a serviceman using this article. However, the charges would have to be brought by a superior officer who felt that the charges were worth his/her time.
The Commission on Military Justice, created in 2001, is a nonprofit corporation formed to assess the military justice system’s laws and practices and improve public understanding. During their July 2009 meeting, a panel comprising of law professors, private practitioners and other legal experts received numerous arguments from Americans and foreign nationals in Europe that specific language was needed to address crimes against animals.
The Commission, received dozens of letters and e-mails about the issue of animal abuse from people in Italy, England, Germany and the U.S. And they were surprised – totally surprised by the number of incidents brought to their attention.
“Most of us were not aware that this was the problem that it is,” said Walter Cox, a retired judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the chairman of the commission.
“Of all the issues, I would not have predicted that this would be the issue we would get the most mail on,” Cox said.
Mind you now, this is a suggestion to Congress, and Congress must approve any changes to the UCMJ. But isn’t it about time Washington got with it? Don’t let superior officers make the decision of whether it’s worth their time to punish troops for animal cruelty. They only do so in the event of intense media pressure. Make it the law. I’m sure the reports of Dwayne Sumter and Frank Zimmerman were among the long list that was submitted.
And Speaking of The Fort Bliss Abusers, a member of the Humane Society was at Fort Bliss just recently to train their prosecutors and law enforcement officials about animal cruelty issues. According to their Public Relations Office, they don’t want to go through any of that again.
Thanks Andrea, this would indeed be excellent if these changes went through! It would be obvious to anyone who takes time to look through FTLTD that I support our troops and have great respect for those who put their lives on the line for us in so many ways and for others as well. Not only do these brothers and sisters in uniform protect and fight for us, they also represent us and the entire US. They are held up to the scrutiny of the world and when one of them commits a crime it’s a smear on our country, not just them. If a private citizen commits a crime, abuses an animal, they have to face the law, why should the members of our armed forces be any different? So many of them serve so valiantly, so honorably, the bad apples need to be weeded out!