Dr. Kristen Lindsey's license hangs in balance
An administrative hearing concerning a Texas veterinarian who bragged on social media last spring about shooting a cat in the head with a bow and arrow will not continue as planned on March 8.
Dr. Kristen Lindsey first wants to try mediating with the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, which is seeking to revoke her license based on animal cruelty allegations and other violations of the state’s practice act.
Mediation is scheduled for March 10 in Austin and will take place in private. Negotiations could continue through April 20, according to an order signed Tuesday by Administrative Law Judge Catherine Egan.
If mediation fails to bring about a deal between Lindsey and the Texas regulators, the hearing will go on as originally planned, explained Zandra Anderson, an attorney representing citizens who filed board complaints against Lindsey concerning the matter.
Lindsey did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The 32-year-old veterinarian came under fire last April after posting a photo of herself and a slain cat on Facebook. She captioned it, "My first bow kill (cat smiley face) lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it’s head! Vet of the year award … gladly accepted."
That image went viral, and Lindsey quickly became the object of public disdain and scrutiny, which mounted with accusations that the slain cat was not feral but a beloved pet named Tiger who belonged to Bill and Claire Johnson, neighbors who lived across the street from her Brenham, Texas, home.
Whether the cat was indeed Tiger is unclear; authorities reportedly have not examined the body, which is rumored to be buried on private property. In June, a grand jury in Austin County failed to indict Lindsey because there was insufficient proof that she committed a crime.
In a complaint dated Oct. 2, the TBVME alleged that Lindsey committed animal cruelty and violated the state’s veterinary practice act, a code governing the profession that’s enforceable without an indictment or conviction.
"Proof of the commission of the act while in the practice of, or under the guise of the practice of veterinary medicine is sufficient for action by the board," TBVME attorney Michelle Griffin wrote in the complaint, which later characterized Lindsey as having a "callous indifference to animal suffering."
The complaint concluded: "Animal cruelty is an exceptionally serious violation for a licensed veterinarian … There is no sanction, short of revocation, that the board can impose that would sufficiently protect the public from respondent's poor professional character."
Lindsey responded on Oct. 14, describing the TBVME’s charges as "frivolous" and stating that the cat she shot had no collar and roamed free on the rural property she was renting from her then-employer.
"The cat was very rough looking, had long and tough claws and was clearly not a ‘home’ cat that had been cared for," she stated. "The subject cat was a feral cat which, given the existing and extensive rabies outbreak in Washington and Austin Counties, I believe was likely rabid. The animal had been getting into the horse feed of my horses and had recently attacked and fought with my domesticated cat."
Lindsey continued: "The arrow penetrated the brain and caused instantaneous death. I did not cause or permit unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering."
Pressed by authorities on why she didn't take appropriate steps to determine whether the cat was rabid, Lindsey contradicted her statement in a Feb. 9 deposition:
Q: The time that you killed the cat, did you think it had rabies?
Q: Do you think now that the cat had rabies?
Lindsey: I don't know.
Reflecting public outrage over the case, the TBVME reported in October receiving more than 700 formal complaints from angry citizens. Lindsey's attorney Brian Bishop stated in a motion filed Feb. 25 that a "lynch mob" of animal rights activists was harassing his client.
Lindsey "strongly desires to get this matter heard and resolved," Bishop stated, noting that she cannot move to her home state of Wyoming and obtain a license to practice there or apply for a permanent position in veterinary medicine while the case is pending.
Many of Lindsey’s colleagues consider her act to be at odds with ethics and morals expected of veterinarians. The American Veterinary Medical Association and other professional organizations have spoken out in abhorrence. Even Lindsey's alma mater, Colorado State University, decried her "grotesque actions."
Some veterinarians, however, want to hear from Lindsey before making a decision about her case. So far, Lindsey has not addressed the public. In a VIN News Service commentary published April 30, Dr. Michele Gaspar pondered what it might take to forgive the ostracized veterinarian.
"It might be that she has no regrets about targeting a cat as her first bow-and-arrow kill and wonders what all the outrage is about," wrote Gaspar, a board-certified feline practitioner and VIN consultant who holds a Master's in pastoral counseling. "Then again, she may honestly wish that she could magically go back in time and undo the past. None of us really knows. Any conjecture on our parts is just that."
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.