The video clip of Taiwanese marines abusing and killing a dog, which went viral on the Internet earlier this week, has sparked outrage and has led the military to implement new animal welfare policies.

In the video, three marines are seen hanging a dog with chains around its neck. In the ensuing investigation, one of the marines admitted to previously firing a BB gun at another stray dog.

More than 100 animal rights activists protested in front of the Ministry of National Defence in Taipei yesterday, calling for the military to punish the marines. The activists held up banners with slogans including “military dregs,” “investigate,” “lunacy,” and “shameful.” Similar comments were posted all over the internet since the video was made public.

Eight activists representing animal protection organizations have met with the offending marines, who have apologized, according to Central News Agency (CNA). Minister of National Defence Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) also publicly apologized during the protest.

New measures

In response to the incident, the Chief of Defense Staff Yan De-fa (嚴德發) has ordered that all dogs on military bases be vaccinated and microchipped. If a base is not willing to take care of the dogs, they must be handed over to animal protection groups. Animal welfare groups will also be allowed to inspect bases every six months and must be notified of any dog’s death within 72 hours.

However, a spokesperson for Animal Rescue Team Taiwan (ARRT) said the “ridiculous” demands made by some animal protection groups may already have had unintended consequences, according to the Central News Agency (CNA)

The AART says military bases across the country have sent their dogs to animal shelters, where they will ultimately be put down, defeating the original purpose of improving the situation for dogs on military bases.

Public reactions

Relatives of the offending marines say they have been subject to violent reactions from the public. After their addresses were circulated online, their houses were spray-painted and hit with eggs. The mother of one of the marines told SET TV, “Our child has already been punished by the military. Why should our home be vandalized?”

They have moved out of their home for fear of further attacks.

Some observers were dismayed by the public reaction to the incident.

“Does the brutal killing of a dog warrant such anger?” retired lieutenant-general Wu Si-huai (吳斯懷) asked in a Facebook post. In an opinion piece in the Chinse-language United Daily News, Wu argued that the public had overreacted.

A former marine said in a Facebook post, “The recent incident in the military is triggering a lot of outrage, but not all service members are like that.” He went on to describe his experiences in the marines working with dogs to accomplish missions, and said many personnel saw dogs as part of their family.

First editor: Edward White
Second editor: J. Michael Cole