A woman whose legal troubles brought her the support of animal advocates got a partial victory in front of a military court in Rome on Friday.
Italian anesthesiologist and army reservist Barbara Balanzoni was acquitted Friday on one of three charges filed against her by a military court for violating protocol by tending to a cat and saving the animal’s life.
Animal advocates gathered outside the courthouse in support and Lt. Balanzoni addressed those assembled before entering the building for her hearing.
Lt. Balanzoni was prosecuted for the humane act of saving the life of a cat in extreme distress on a Nato base in Kosovo in May of 2012.
The cat, a stray called Agata living 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 was 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 in December, 2013. “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 faced a minimum sentence of one year in a military penitentiary if found guilty on that charge.
“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.
Italian animal welfare organization ENPA – Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali took up Lt. Balzanoni’s cause, which gained worldwide attention last December.
Lt. Balanzoni still faces charges of defamation and insults, which her attorney, Aldo Areddu, says were the result of escalating tension following the incident.
ENPA – Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali posted Lt. Balzoni’s remarks following the hearing at Facebook on Friday: “[It was] a decision that leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth,” she said, because of the remaining charges. “I hope at this point that the other two indictments fall as happened with the first. Since 2012 I’m living a real hell, hope I can turn the page as soon as possible.”
ENPA President Carla Rocchi said, “I welcome the news of the acquittal of Barbara Balanzoni for the crime of disobedience: justice is done, at least for the cat.”
“Today was reiterated a pivotal ingredient in terms of ethical and legal: the defense of the life of every living being is a primary resource and must be protected first and foremost,’ Rocchi continued.
ENPA vows to continue their support of Lt. Balanzoni as she faces the outstanding charges against her.
See our earlier post from December 23, 2013: Italian Army Medical Officer Faces Prosecution for Saving the Life of a Cat.