Italian military officer court-martialed for saving a cat’s life

Lieutenant Barbara Balanzon is an Italian military reservist who in civilian life works as an anaesthetist in Tuscany, Italy. However, I think she has recently resigned from the military.

In her role in the military she served in Kosovo as a medical officer.

One of the rules on the base, where she was deployed, was a ban on “bringing in….wild, stray or unaccompanied animals”.

While at the base she received a call from colleagues who were concerned about the loud vocalisations of a cat living on the roof of a hut on the base. There were lots of cats on the base. I suppose they were attracted by the food and a better life. They were stray cats who had found a home.

Lieutenant Barbara Balanzon investigated the cat making loud noises. The noises were sounds of distress as the cat was in the middle of delivering kittens and the last one was stuck. The mother cat and her unborn kitten was dying.

As the veterinarian assigned to the base happened to be in Italy, Lieutenant Balanzon intervened and saved the cat’s life. If she had not intervened it is quite likely that the mother cat and her kittens would have died causing a health hazard. That is Barbara Balanzon’s argument as to why she helped this cat. Also, she states she had an obligation to help the cat under military regulations in the absence of the veterinarian. She is using arguments that are within the rules but I suspect she just couldn’t stand by and do nothing.

Despite Barbara Balanzon’s humane, sensible and logical approach to this health problem it was decided by her superiors that she had committed an offence and must face a court martial. She was charged with insubordination.

It sounds crazy to me and it appears that many others feel the same way. Also I don’t see a connection between what she did and the regulation referred to. She did not bring a cat onto the base. They come into the base of their own free will.

The Italian animal welfare association, Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali have taken up the matter and it is being discussed in Parliament. The Italian Minister for Defence is being asked what is going on.

I can answer that question: madness is going on. This is a complete waste of money and resources. It is also the sort of thing that knocks moral. It is idiotic to prosecute a decent and kind hearted military volunteer who saved the life of a cat who had made the military base her home. She has done nothing wrong. On the contrary, she has done well.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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      • I've already read about this and signed the petition a while ago- what a stupid bunch of a**hole*. I often read about similar things in the US military where the commanding officer won't let the soldiers help any animals. What is it with these f*ckt*rds anyway? Is it just that they get off on power and enforcing stupid rules?

        That's what I think.

          • Sorry for being so rude but hearing yet another story of insubordination of army people because they want to love or care for an animal is downright depressing and in just about every case I hear about there is no tactical reason for it - it's just a principled or non principled power trip - or so it seems.

          • Here's another such story involving military personel in the wonderful animal heaven that is Romania. They save the dogs in the end so it's all ok. Short read. Why do the US have bases everywhere man? In Okinawa they have been protesting the crime, pollution and noise of a huge US base there for years. They finally are going to try and move the base away from where people live. There's huge bases in Germany, England, Poland, Korea - just about every country they invaded throughout history they basically never left. That's how it goes. At least they didn't invade England - yet.

  • It's not just her immediate superiors that are mad. It's all the people involved in allowing the charges to escalate up to a court martial. Not only do they display an ignorance of the regulations pertaining to this case but show a lack of common sense and wisdom. The Italian military has lost an important medical officer. I am sure she won't be doing any more volunteering any time soon. Hopefully the dire consequences of this stupidity will be seen by the MoD and those lunatics removed. Evidently the selection process for officers is defective. Loonies slip through. This is a hard knock for morale and recruiting.

    • Well said Harvey and thanks a lot for picking up this story and telling me about it. If the facts are correct it is an example of silly management.

  • I can't find a petition but just seen she could be jailed for a year.

  • Madness, surely she should have been commended for doing what she did, she obviously has a heart and hearts must not be allowed in a military machine! She's best out of there, she's a brave, kind and good woman. I'd sign a petition to support her.

    • It is made more mad by the fact that there are lots of cats on the base. You can't ignore the cats for that reason alone.

  • This lady should be rewarded not court martialed, what is wrong with the miltary that she will be punished for being humane. I wonder if there is a petition supporting her.

    • It appears that some non-military people are seeing some sense. She may get off. I think I read somewhere that she had quit the military as a reservist as a consequence of this experience.

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