A video clip on the Internet, which appears to depict a Marine tossing a squealing puppy over a cliff in Iraq, set the telephone lines and email accounts at The HSUS ablaze this week, as citizens from around the world, outraged and disgusted, called upon us to act—and that’s just what we did. I immediately sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, asking that the Department of Defense investigate and take swift and appropriate disciplinary action. But I also asked Secretary Gates—for the second time in 14 months—to join me in supporting the inclusion of an explicit prohibition against cruelty to animals in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
General Article 134 of the UCMJ allows commanders to hold service members accountable for misconduct not specifically mentioned elsewhere in the code, and cruelty to animals can be punished that way. It’s clear to me, though, that a discreet and explicit prohibition is what’s needed. That’s what we have in the laws of every state, and we should expect no less of our military code of justice. Incidents of cruelty to animals involving military personnel, though thankfully still rare, have occurred often enough to convince me that the formal recognition of animal cruelty as a military offense is the best way to discourage and prevent such actions in the future.
The HSUS enjoys the support of many members of our Armed Forces and their families, and we’ve been heartened to read the accounts of military personnel who have shown enormous kindness to stray animals in war zones, or those, like Jay Kopelman, who have brought animals home with them. In seeking this revision, we feel we’re keeping faith with these outstanding servicemen and women and their families. They embody the principle that Americans in uniforms should and do exemplify the very best of human values.
You can do your part by writing to the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, who chairs the Code Committee on the UCMJ. Click here to tell Chief Judge Andrew Effron that an explicit cruelty provision for the UCMJ is long overdue.