I’m outraged!

December 23, 2013 • 3:16 pm

What kind of organization would try one of its members in court for saving a cat’s life? Her crime for that dastardly act: gross insubordination.

It’s the Italian army, that’s who!  And one of their female lieutenants faces a year in jail.

According to today’s Guardian:

A question is to be raised in the Italian parliament over the case of an army officer who was sent for trial at a military court last week for saving the life of a dying cat.

Lieutenant Barbara Balanzoni, a reservist who has since returned to her civilian job as an anaesthetist in Tuscany, is charged with gross insubordination. She committed the alleged offence while serving as medical officer at a Nato base in Kosovo.

It is claimed that, by attending to the cat, Lt Balanzoni 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.

Lt Balanzoni told the Guardian she intervened after receiving a call to the infirmary from military personnel, alarmed by the noises the cat was making. She said the cat – later named “Agata” – normally lived on the roof of a hut.

“There are lots of cats on the base,” she said. “In theory, they are strays, but in practice they belong there.”

Lt Balanzoni said the veterinary officer was in Italy when she received the call. “Far from disobeying orders, I was following military regulations, which state that, in the absence of a vet, the medical officer should intervene.”

She said she found that the cat had been unable to deliver the last of her kittens, which was stillborn, and was certain to die. “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.”

The trial begins February 7, and the Italian Army is a bunch of poopy-heads.


73 thoughts on “I’m outraged!

  1. There is a certain military mindset that looks dimly upon displays of creative thinking and competence, especially when coupled with humanity and compassion.

    Not all in all militaries suffer so, but it’s quite a common problem.


    1. “looks dimly upon displays of creative thinking and competence, especially when coupled with humanity and compassion.”

      With a slip of the tongue, I used the term “mindless robots” with a Marine coworker of mine. He hotly claimed that they were taught to think creatively, which seems slightly oxymoronic to me.

      1. A cow-orker friend of mine is an ex-Marine grunt, too. They taught him to follow orders. Creativity was limited to avoiding boredom and in coming up with ways to do the right thing despite the orders.

        And his specialty was in nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons….


          1. Ha!

            While I think he did load dummy weapons onto aircraft (and would have loaded the real thing if somebody pushed the Big Red Button), his main job was sitting in a specialized armored vehicle in Iraq looking for signs that they used those sorts of things against us. He figured that, if they ever did, the primary way the brass would learn of such would be by the deaths of himself and the others in the vehicle….


            1. … so he had to keep up a stream of inane chatter, so that silence would indicate the discovery of NBC weapons.
              I know people fitted for that job. Where do I send them?

              1. 921 Ellsworth Drive Silver Spring, MD 20910 (301) 587-3008

                There may be a more local location.

                Note that they will be required to pass certain fitness exams….


              2. I am having them dehydrated and compressed into standard one-tonne cargo canisters. As soon as Commander Jameson gets his Cobra Mk3 out of vacuum dock at Lave, I’ll have them shipped over.

              3. Perfect! And, in that case, the loading dock is actually about 25 km NE of there.

                Oh — and no need to worry about anything fancy with the delivery mechanism…just enough Δvs to de-orbit the containers, and let momentum get them to their destination. The…ah…receiving facility can…ah…handle…whatever you throw at them. Trust me, and pay no attention to whatever protests or objections they might otherwise make.



                P.P.S. If you’d care to make regular and frequent deliveries to that location, please be my guest! b&

              4. 25km is good enough. With sufficient K.E., they’ll get all they want.
                No neighbours to object, I hope?

              5. I don’t think I ever did get to that one. The two are, of course, one of the most dynamic duos in SF, so I should remedy that omission.

                I have, of course, read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I still feel sorry for Mike….


              6. Errr, Door into Summer? I think. There is a good ending for Mycroft.
                Though I do find Heinlein’s politics somewhat jarring, I do like many of his books.

              7. I think Heinlein revived and / or attempted to revive Mike a number of times…I seem to recall that that was the grail in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, and he probably made a cameo in The Number of the Beast.

                RAH was a great storyteller…with excessively Randian politics and all the well-meaning-but-patronizing misogyny of the ’50s. I absolutely ate up everything he wrote when I was a teen, but I find myself wincing at a lot of his stuff today.


    2. You didn’t specify which military you’re referring to, but I’m quite familiar with the US and German militaries and creative thinking and competence are certainly encouraged. This may be different in whatever military you served in, so your mileage may vary. OTOH, disobeying direct orders of a commanding officer is usually frowned upon. You can do it, but had better be willing to argue your case or take the consequences. There’s a good reason for this, if your military doesn’t follow orders, the chances of winning battles are slim indeed (and that is the purpose of the military). Sometimes civilians find this difficult to comprehend, but that’s why they’re civilians.

      1. If by “orking” you mean slaughtering, it’s legal only in states where there’s a McDonalds restaurant. 🙂

  2. She makes a bad argument: If infection of the “entire area” was her real concern she could have taken the cat to another place far away instead of taking it into the base.

    1. In which you may be wrong.

      According to the report in the Corriere della Sera, the cat in question, known as Agata, was the base’s pet cat (usually to be found on the roof of the main barrack), and she had repaired for her litter to a hut on an area belonging to the base (“area 40”).

  3. Unless I misread the story, the cat was already on the base.

    The story is not clear about whether the Lieutenant treated the cat where it was found or in the infirmary. That would make a big difference to me.

    1. This seems like a Phantom Tollbooth reference, but the word “stasis” is not in that pericope. Please enlighten.

  4. Justice in the Italian military is relative: the Carabinieri are technically soldiers.
    They and the police went berserk against unarmed civilians (many actually from abroad) in a school building during the G8 in Genoa in 2001 and none have been punished for it, in spite of legal action and even finding them guilty: they get off on appeal or proscription (the legal action goes out of time and is invalidated). Systematic violence and abuse, sanctioned and condoned from high up.

    I was living in Milan at the time and I remember it well

    Some sickening descriptions:

    If they treat humans that way……

  5. Kudos to Lieutenant Barbara Balanzoni. I had a similar incident with one of my cats some years ago, a dead and malformed kitten got stuck halfway out and she was exhausting herself in her efforts to expel it. I called my veterinarian, he couldn’t come over but explained to me what I should do – pull gently on the kitten (it was presenting breech and it was its overly large head that got stuck) with each of her contractions (a strong pull could have ripped her). I finally got the whole kitten out with no damage to her, and she was able to give birth to the two kittens who were still not born. Luckily, they both were alive and healthy. It was a harrowing experience which I would not wish on anyone. Mother cat and surviving kittens did just fine.

    1. Note that at the time, I was living in the country some two miles away from the little town where my vet was, and I had no car, so it was up to me to do the necessary.

  6. Google returned one passably relevant hit that linked to the WEIT page titled ‘A report on my talk at the Harvard Museum.’

    Here’s the relevant part:

    Posted May 9, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I hope the video shows that fantastic introduction. I learned from the intro, e.g. Coyne et al. vs Nixon et al. ( now that’s one great teaser).
    What am I missing here, Grania?

  7. Wouldn’t the site have to be disinfected no matter what the activity? If it had been a soldier operated on, would they have just slapped another patient on the table without cleanup? It really doesn’t make much sense.

    1. The judge wrote a summing up document: 900 pages. I bet it was wonderful to read.
      It includes:
      “‘Science’ is not being put on trial for not having succeeded in predicting the earthquake of April 6th 2009,” he wrote. “The task of the accused … was certainly not to predict the earthquake and indicate the month, day, hour and magnitude, but rather, more realistically, to go ahead … with the ‘prediction and prevention of the risk'”.

      The experts, who were members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, will remain free pending the appeals process.

      Judges braincells communicate in mysterious ways!

  8. I truly do sympathize, and I think she has the perfect defense, namely that the cat was already on the base. However, I understand why that order was written.

    Kosovo is a country with a large feral pet population, and few programs to deal with them. In the US, feral cats are often trapped, given veterinary care, neutered, and returned to their colonies. Rabies in the US is largely confined to bats and large carnivores, although it is endemic to ground squirrels in the west.

    Rabies is so prevalent in Kosovo that a three year contract was granted last year to set 1,500,000 bait vaccines over a period of three years. HPA judges the country “high risk,” and travelers to Kosovo are advised to get a rabies vaccine.

    In fact, the lieutenant was bitten and had to be taken to the hospital to be vaccinated against rabies.

    1. How terrible. I donate to WSPA to help animals all over the world. They help with disaster relief, vaccinations vs. rabies, helping strays & stopping cruel treatment of farm and work animals. My Mastercard also donates a percentage to them when I use it.

      I hope the soldier is exonerated. She had the fortitude to do something kind and humane; that should be celebrated, not punished.

    2. “In the US, feral cats are often trapped, given veterinary care, neutered, and returned to their colonies.”

      That is also the case in most European countries. The cats also get a piece of the tip of one of their ears cut off to indicate that they had been neutered, so as to avoid opening them up (the females) a second time for nothing. The males too are marked in this manner.

    3. I don’t know if the rabies situation is similar in Afghanistan but apparently Americans are allowed to adopt dogs and cats and there have been many instances of soldiers bringing back to America their new pet-buddies. There are several organizations that help them bring the animals back.

      Here is a photo gallery of kitties and dogs that have been rescued and flown out of Afghanistan:


  9. See the kind of mentality I had to put up with when I lived in that country?
    I don’t regret leaving, not just because of the attitude towards cats.

  10. My only contact with the Italian military is second-hand. Only after several years of nearly exclusively patronizing one (Thai) food truck on campus did I learn that the enormously hard-working owner was Vietnamese and not Thai. As a ~12y/o he was sent to a refugee camp in another country (forgotten which) at the end of the VietNam war. He arrived the day the camp closed and so the remaining refugees were put on a boat with three days food/water/fuel. The engine died and they were adrift, and supplies had run out. Old people were the first to start to die, and he told me that he dimly remembers that those were being dumped overboard.

    Then the Italian Navy came past. What they were doing there, ask me another, but all still alive were rescued and for the next month they had all they wanted to eat and drink. From Italy he wound up with distant relatives in West Virginia, and from there into western PA.

  11. “I’m outraged!”

    And so do I.

    But WTF? One year in prison for saving a cat? I hope the court sees that this absurd. But if she has to be punished for subordination, would a fine not suffices?

    1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/try
      try (tr)
      v. tried (trd), try·ing, tries (trz)
      1. To make an effort to do or accomplish (something); attempt: tried to ski.
      2. To taste, sample, or otherwise test in order to determine strength, effect, worth, or desirability: Try this casserole. Try the door.
      3. Law
      a. To examine or hear (evidence or a case) by judicial process.
      b. To put (an accused person) on trial.

      4. To subject to great strain or hardship; tax: The last steep ascent tried my every muscle.
      5. To melt (lard, for example) to separate out impurities; render.
      6. To smooth, fit, or align accurately.

      (emphasis mine)

    1. The cat colony would have been invaded and bombed back to the Stone Age, then all their natural resources stolen by Halliburton.
      Next question?

  12. Makes sense from a counrty that puts scientist in jail for not accurately predicting the earthquake that was mentioned earlier.

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