Hanging of dog on Taiwan military base stirs outrage, reform pledges

The videotaped hanging of a dog on a Taiwanese military base has incited widespread outrage around the island and prompted vows to prosecute the killers.

Three people from a the marine base in Taiwan’s major southern city of Kaohsiung hung a mid-sized white dog on a chain Friday, taunted it before it died from strangulation and threw its body into the sea, according to news reports and a Ministry of National Defense statement.

The incident touched off outrage in a society that has become fonder of pets over the last decade and better connected through Internet media. The law calls animal abuse a crime often punishable by fines, for civilians and troops alike.

“I didn’t know before that this sort of incident would happen on military bases and now I hear they’re killing dogs for some sense of achievement,” said Judy Hsu, 29, an animal rescue worker in New Taipei City. “Now I wonder how I can trust them with our country’s safety. I hope the [defense ministry] can assure us this kind of thing won’t happen again.”

Thousands of incensed comments have flooded social media and Taiwanese news websites since Sunday, when a city council member in the southern city of Kaohsiung posted the 40-second video of the killing online. Some commentators demanded that the people involved be fired or abused themselves.

Animal abuse has occurred before on military bases, Defense Ministry spokesman Lo Shao-he said, prompting the ministry to step up education, including awareness that Taiwan’s laws protect animal rights.

The base in question had raised the dog, named Little White, Lo said.

Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan thanked Taiwan’s public for “supervising” the military after the incident and ordered that the marines involved be “severely” punished.  The ministry has identified nine suspects, including the perpetrators and their commanders. Feng ordered that within a week, every military unit double its education on animal protection laws.

“The incident regarding Little White has prompted us to do a self-review and demand that all in the military care about life and allow no more acts of criminal abuse,” Feng said in a statement.

Taiwanese troops have killed dogs on bases at least since 2005, said Sean McCormack, cofounder of PACK Sanctuary, an animal shelter near Taipei with 325 dogs. He recalled receiving a video that year of a dog beaten to death on a base.

“I’ve talked to people and they say it happens a lot,” McCormack said. “It seems like this is institutionalized animal torture. It makes you think they have low self-esteem, that they’re cowardly and perverted.”

Taiwan’s military has 300,000 active troops. All men between ages 18 and 36 are subject to compulsory service.

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Various reports put the number of marines involved in the incident at three, four and five. Four marines put out a video of themselves, in uniform, bowing in apology and calling the dog’s death a mistake. The video had received more than 1.7 million views as of Wednesday and a raft of comments questioning the apology’s sincerity.

“Too much nonsense,” one comment reads. “If you abuse a doggy like that, it’s best that the same kind of abuse should be used to prosecute you.”

Another dog lives on the same marine base, the defense spokesman said, and military officials “will follow up with supportive care for it.”

Jennings is a special correspondent.

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