Italian Army Medical Officer Faces Prosecution for Saving the Life of a Cat
It is being widely reported in the Italian and British press that Italian army reservist Barbara Balanzoni is facing prosecution for doing the humane thing and saving the life of cat in distress at a Nato base in Kosovo.
The cat, a stray called Agata, known to live on the base, was delivering a litter of kittens, and her life was in danger as the last kitten, a stillborn, would not deliver and remained inside its mother.
Lt. Balanzoni is charged with insubordination for her efforts in helping the cat after military personnel asked for her help with the animal, which was making prolonged cries of distress.
Lt. Balanzoni spoke about the incident with The Guardian. “There are lots of cats on the base,” she said. “In theory, they are strays, but in practice they belong there.”
The charges of gross insubordination against Lt. Balanzon claim that in tending to the cat she disregarded an order issued by her commanding officer in May 2012 forbidding troops at the base from “bringing in or having brought in wild, stray or unaccompanied animals”. She faces a minimum sentence of one year in a military penitentiary.
“Far from disobeying orders, I was following military regulations, which state that, in the absence of a vet, the medical officer should intervene.” The veterinary officer was in Italy at the time, Lt. Balanzoni told the Guardian.
Citing the danger to public health, she said: “If the cat had died, the entire area would have had to be disinfected. What is more, the surviving kittens could not have been fed. So they too would have died and created an even greater public health problem.”
According to a story in The Mirror, prosecutors say Lt. Balanzoni might have increased the risk to public health because she was bitten and had to go to a hospital in Germany for a rabies vaccine. Lt. Balanzoni is said to call the wound “only a scratch.”
Lt. Balanzoni has returned to civilian life as an anesthesiologist in Tuscany. Her trial is scheduled to begin in February, in Rome.
Italian animal welfare organization ENPA – Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali has taken up Lt. Balzoni’s cause, and is circulating a petition on her behalf. The petition appears to seek signatures from Italian citizens.
Thanks to advocacy efforts, the matter is expected to be addressed with the defense minister in the senate, when the Italian legislature resumes session following the Christmas break.