Fact Check

Marine Throws Puppy Off Cliff

Video shows U.S. Marines in Iraq throwing a puppy off a hillside.

Published March 4, 2008


Claim:   Video shows U.S. Marines in Iraq throwing a puppy off a hillside.

Status:   Undetermined.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, March 2008]

I was sent this video as a graphic example of animal cruelty perpetrated by a group of U.S. Marines in Iraq. In the video, one of the Marines is holding a puppy, which, to their apparent amusement, is then promptly thrown a great distance over a cliff, presumably to its death.

Origins:   The above-linked video purportedly shows a couple of U.S. Marines in Iraq gleefully throwing a puppy off the top of a steep hillside into gully below. As described by the Honolulu Advertiser, the scene unfolds this way:


Marines are seen in combat gear smiling as one holds a white-and-black puppy by the scruff of its neck. The dog seems to be about 8 weeks old and is motionless as it is held.

"Cute little puppy, huh?" says one Marine as he smiles broadly.

"Oh so cute, so cute, little puppy," says another in a child-like voice.

The Marine holding the puppy is then seen throwing the animal overhand into a desert-like gully below. The animal yelps until it thuds to the ground at the bottom of the gully.

"That's mean," one Marine says afterward. "That was mean, Motari."

The puppy-flinging Marine referred to as "Motari" is Lance Cpl. David Motari, who was deployed to Iraq for seven months in mid-2007:

Maj. Chris Perrine, a Marine spokesman, said a Lance Cpl. David Motari is with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kane'ohe Bay.


returned to Hawai'i in October from Haqlaniyah, Iraq, after a seven-month deployment, Perrine said. The 1,000 Marines with the 1st Battalion were stationed in the "Triad" area of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana northwest of Baghdad.

Motari could not be reached for comment.

"We're still trying to figure out, is this a legitimate video?" Perrine said. "Was it edited? Is it (Motari) who's in it? We don't know. We'll find that out hopefully sooner rather than later."

Colin Macdonald, an assistant professor in the University of Hawai'i's School of Communications, said he would have a really hard time determining whether the video was real or a hoax.

"I wouldn't be able to conclusively say that a) the dog was alive or, assuming it was alive, b) that it's the same dog that gets thrown," he said.

He points out that the Marine brings his hand out of frame before throwing the puppy and giving time to substitute in something that looks like a puppy.

Macdonald said the sound could also have been problematic, since it's more clear than he would expect from a camcorder, assuming that's what the Marines were using.

Is the video real, faked with digital trickery, or staged using (or switching off to) a decoy puppy? Since the Marine shown tossing the puppy appeared to be based out of Hawaii, the Marine Corps base there said they would be investigating the incident:

Marine Corps Base Hawaii is investigating a shocking video of a smiling Marine throwing a puppy off the top of a steep hillside in Iraq into a gully below.

"The video is shocking and deplorable and is contrary to the high standards we expect of every Marine," the Kane'ohe Bay base said in a release.

Base officials said the video came to their attention this morning [March 3]. An investigation has been initiated. Maj. Chris Perrine, a Marine spokesman here, said "it's looking like" the Marine is based out of Hawai'i.

"We do not tolerate this type of behavior and will take appropriate action," the base said.

Ultimately, the Marine Corps announced they had punished the two Marines involved with the video (and were discharging Lance Cpl. Motari), but they were not specific about either of the men's roles in creating the video or the punishment they received:

Lance Cpl. David Motari, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay, is "being processed for separation" from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps said in a news release. He also received unspecified "non-judicial punishment."

The Marine Corps didn't say what role Motari played in the clip.

"The actions seen in the Internet video are contrary to the high standards we expect of every Marine and will not be tolerated," Marine Corps Base Hawaii said in a news release. "The vast majority of Marines conduct their duties with honor and compassion that makes American people proud."

The second Marine, Sgt. Crismarvin Banez Encarnacion, also received unspecified "non-judicial" punishment.

Encarnacion is assigned to the Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

First Lt. Binford Strickland, a Marine Corps Base Hawaii spokesman, said the service may not reveal what roles the two men played in the video because that was part of the investigation. He said releasing such information would violate the Privacy Act.

Strickland declined to provide details about the disciplinary measures taken against the men for the same reason.

Last updated:   12 June 2008

Sources Sources:

    Cole, William.   "Puppy Abuse Video Investigated by Hawaii Marine Base."

    The Honolulu Advertiser.   3 March 2008.

    Cole, William and Treena Shapiro.   "Marines Examining Dog-Toss Video Clip."

    The Honolulu Advertiser.   4 March 2008.

    McAvoy, Audrey.   "Marine Expelled, Another Punished Over Puppy Video."

    Associated Press.   12 June 2008.

    Associated Press.   "Marines Probe Puppy-Throwing Video."

    guardian.co.uk.   4 March 2008.

    [Melbourne] Herald Sun.   "Marine 'Threw Puppy from Cliff'."

    4 March 2008.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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