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Base policy on pets, animal abuse, strays
What is the base policy on pets, animal abuse, strays on base and the possibility of having a collection box for animals?

A: The leadership of Aviano Air Base is committed to ensuring U.S. military members comply with applicable Italian laws as well as base, Air Force, and Wing policies. This is something we work very hard at and this includes the obligation for humane treatment of animals entrusted to a military members' care.

As part of our obligation, U.S. military personnel must exercise responsible pet ownership, including registering and de-registering pets through microchip implant, proper vaccinations, and approvals by governmental agencies before pets are transported into/out of Italy. The outprocessing checklist requires owners to bring in their pet(s) to get them signed off before departing. We currently have 1,800 domestic pets registered to U.S. personnel and their families. Among these owners, only a very few incidents of irresponsible pet ownership have been reported to base leadership. However, when such allegations arise, they are investigated promptly and appropriate disciplinary actions are taken swiftly when owners are found in neglect of their pets. While publishing these disciplinary actions would be inappropriate, we can verify that disciplinary action in the few reported and/or discovered cases has taken place. Partnership and cooperation with local Italian authorities are also key parts of enforcing applicable laws and affording due process to those accused of animal-related offenses.

Aviano authorities are specifically aware of the recent issue concerning an Aviano military member and his pet. Wing authorities are conducting an investigation into this allegation, and a person who is potentially involved was previously scheduled to depart from Aviano Air Base this week. His departure has been specifically delayed as a result of this incident until the nature of his involvement, if any, has been determined. In addition, as a matter of normal procedure, Italian authorities have been made aware of this issue and were provided all available information. As in all off base cases, it is the prerogative of Italian authorities to determine if any charges will be pursued. In this particular case, we are still awaiting the decisions of Italian authorities of what actions they intend to take. Our on base disciplinary actions, if appropriate, will be separate from any Italian legal actions.

As a separate matter, issues of stray or feral animals have been reported on or near Aviano Air Base in the past. While all stray animals in the area do not belong to Americans, we suspect there are some abandoned animals that do. Aviano AB does not have a stray animal facility, but any cases of pet abandonment or stray animals should be brought to the attention of the veterinary clinic (0434-30-8485) or the Civil Engineering Squadron (0434-30-5636) who will, in turn, notify the owner's respective commander if the owner can be readily identified. An investigation and/or disciplinary action may result, if the military member has not been fulfilling their obligations to properly care for the pet.

To date, Aviano authorities have not received reports of on-base animals identified as abandoned and belonging directly to U.S. personnel and we have been notified of only a few off-base animals identified and traced directly to US personnel like in this case. To date, all animals found on base have been feral without identifiable owners. For found or feral animals Aviano authorities would like to work with the veterinary clinic and local volunteers to transport them to animal shelters or find new homes. Unfortunately, as we've been told, local animal shelters have limited resources and are not able to accept animals. This leaves us with limited options for caring for these animals. Given your involvement with animals in the local area and expressed concern, we would be happy to partner with you or take any suggestions you might have to help with feral or unidentified abandoned animals.

On the issue of a collection box, I have elected to make the Vet Clinic the collection site for donations. We have talked with the veterinarian and they are happy to host a collection/donation box. Food collected at this location can be picked up by you or other volunteers for transfer to shelters. I am fully aware that is not in line with your request, but we support and service the entire base population and community of 9,000 people, and as such it is important to balance and share the needs of all. Locating pet and pet related activities at the Vet Clinic makes sense and is still close enough to the commissary to allow easy drop off for those so inclined to donate.

Aviano Air Base enjoys an excellent partnership with local Italian authorities. We work in very close coordination in order to ensure that U.S. military members comply with applicable laws, rules, and regulations, particularly on issues affecting the humane treatment of privately-owned pets. We appreciate your continued concern on these issues.