Obama signs executive order closing animal cruelty loophole on U.S. military bases

By on October 24, 2016 with 20 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Even the U.S. military, possessed with so many brave, self-sacrificing individuals, has not been immune from a handful of its recruits perpetrating some very awful cases of cruelty. In recent years, authorities charged a U.S. Marine couple living at Camp Pendleton in California with shattering their dog’s legs and binding his mouth with rubber bands for days. In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, law enforcement charged a soldier, who had a history of domestic violence, with slitting the throats of two dogs and then dumping their bodies in trash bags. In another well-publicized case in El Paso, Texas, a Fort Bliss soldier and his wife adopted two dogs and just two weeks later, one dog was dead and the other―a puppy―had suffered a broken leg that hardly seemed accidental.

The soldiers were charged with animal cruelty by the local sheriffs’ offices but had these offenses happened on a military base anywhere in the world, there would have been no action taken against them because U.S. state cruelty laws cannot be applied internationally.

Recently, President Obama signed an executive order closing this loophole in our anti-cruelty laws. The new provision under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) will now apply anywhere in the world where the military is stationed and will be on a par with states’ animal cruelty statutes. Violations will be separated by “abuse, neglect, or abandonment of an animal” and “bestiality.” The maximum punishment will include bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and jail time ranging from up to one year to up to five years, depending upon the offense.

This is a significant advance from the prior circumstance when animal abuse was classed under a general provision with other “disorders and neglects” to be addressed with a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense. The HSUS’s Sherry Ramsey worked diligently for five years to see this new policy adopted. We’re also grateful to Representative Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., for leading a letter cosigned by a bipartisan group of 13 of his colleagues, urging the Administration to amend the UCMJ to include the specific crime of animal cruelty.

The FBI recently started to track animal cruelty crimes in its National Incident Based Reporting System, and it’s good to see the military join the movement within the federal government to treat animal cruelty with the seriousness that it deserves. This reflects a now widespread recognition about the close link between animal cruelty and violence toward humans.

We also hope that the adoption of the UCMJ provision will provide Congress with an additional reason to close other existing loopholes in our federal government, by passing the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (S. 2293/H.R. 1831) pending in Congress.

The PACT Act would empower the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to prosecute animal abuse cases that occur in interstate commerce or on federal property, and it’s a common-sense piece of legislation. There’s no meaningful opposition to it, and a raft of support. It would be an easy matter to take this up in the lame duck session of Congress and do something good for the country, delivering a blow to the worst offenders of animals everywhere.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Sandy Weinstein says:

    these soldiers need to be in jail, pay fines, etc. the people in ft bragg, nc got off with a slap on the wrist, no jail time, no fines, can have another pet in 5 yrs, just community service. disgusting. no soldiers have ever gotten any jail time, always got off.

    • SNOWY says:

      gee, sounds just like the NFL & Sicko Vick…..no prison or anything for torturing animals & can have animals after 5 years…..simply NO justice for these innocent animals…..I say do the exact same torturous things to all of those involved & see how they like it….perhaps they’ll learn a few lessons, if they survive…..
      Now let’s hope these new rules will be truly enforced….

      • EarlGrayHot says:

        I agree. Vick should have gotten a severe sentence and should NEVER have been allowed to own another animal of ANY kind nor should he have been allowed to play football again.

        As for these inhuman creatures-they should have gotten the most severe sentence for their horrible crimes.

        • Tye says:

          Vick served time for his case. Which by the way, was because it happened at a house he owned that was occupied by his relatives. Now what I don’t understand is how can the u.s military use dogs to sniff out explosive devices, and get shot at.. but not be charged with animal cruelty…hmmm go figure.

      • Teri says:

        I like your outlook on this matter SNOWY. They’re wouldn’t be cruelty cases if the punishment fit the crime !

    • Annette Luffman-Johnson says:

      Are you serious??? No penalty at all for them??? This sickens me and makes my blood boil!!! That was horrific!!!

    • Tricia Hamilton says:

      I don’t know why these people are so angry. BUT trump is a angry ignrorant also.

  2. Cindy Wines says:

    You have to be sick in the head to abuse innocent animals!!

  3. Melissa says:

    So if something happened in say, Germany (on a military installation), which states laws will be enforced? I thought each state had their own laws? Just seeking clarification, thank you

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi, I am the blog editor. If someone abuses an animal on a military base in Germany or anywhere else, the new military code will be used.

      • Mary luckhaus says:

        Hi, When you wrote that the new UCMJ would be similar to the states’ laws, some people thought, if I am not mistaken, that it would be the Same as One particular state’s laws.

  4. DONNA BALL says:

    The world is changing but changes are too small and too slowly but it is for the better we hope

  5. Diane Webb says:

    So no one wants to see animal cruelty? What about the human cruelty to the Indians fighting the oil pipeline in No Dakota? Law enforcement is perpetrating all sorts of human rights violations on the hundreds arrested apparently without consequence.
    Look up Standing Rock posts and see for yourself. It is sickening.

    • Annette Luffman-Johnson says:


      • Beaner says:

        Every story of neglect needs to be heard,you’re not the judge and jury on anyone’s “story or life event ” cruelty does not differentiate, be it human or animal,preserving every life should be a priority….Stop hating, start appreciating!

  6. LISA LAMMON says:


  7. Fran Leard says:

    This horrible treatment of innocent animals will continue until our lax wimp judges won’t put these low life cowards in jail for years. We’ve been saying the same thing over and over and continue to sign petitions to no avail.

    Punish these sick crazy hoodlums with long jail time. It’s time for the laws to go into effect now. Enough is enough.

  8. Beaner says:

    My stepson and his wife (both in the Airforce)watched their pitbull get sick for a year and did nothing!!! That poor pup contracted Lyme disease, ended up with acute kidney failure..,, the only shots he ever had was when my husband and I were watching him…..they watched that poor pup have diarrhea, vomit and get skinny for a year….,WHAT KIND OF MONSTERS DO THAT??????

  9. Beaner says:

    Every story of neglect needs to be heard,you’re not the judge and jury on anyone’s “story or life event ” cruelty does not differentiate, be it human or animal,preserving every life should be a priority….Stop hating, start appreciating!

  10. Lisa Holsonback lammon says:

    Prayers everyday for Humane Treatment for all animals..Prayer works!!

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