Dr. Kristen Lindsey no longer can practice veterinary medicine in Texas — for now.
The 33-year-old veterinarian is appealing a five-year suspension levied Tuesday by the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. The order bars Lindsey from practicing in Texas for the first year but allows her to work under probation for the remaining four years, so long as she is monitored by a veterinarian who will keep regulators apprised of her professional conduct.
Lindsey's suspension takes effect as soon as TBVME President Dr. Roland Lenarduzzi signs the order, drafted after Tuesday's board meeting. Officials expect that to happen by the week's end.
The suspension is a much lighter punishment than what regulators initially sought last fall, when they tried to permanently revoke Lindsey's license to practice in the state.
The veterinarian who's been publicly shamed for killing a cat with a bow-and-arrow and bragging about it on Facebook, however, isn't eager to accept her fate. Hours after TBVME officials made their decision, Brian Bishop, Lindsey's attorney, filed a petition for a rehearing of the case. If the TBVME ignores or rejects the petition, Bishop said he will appeal the decision in Travis County District Court, taking the case out of the administrative court system.
By email, Bishop said that he and Lindsey are disappointed with the suspension because her action "had nothing to do with the practice of veterinary medicine."
"We are also disappointed that the board has, for all intents and purposes, chosen to take sides in the culture war between the animal rescues zealots — who have campaigned to destroy Dr. Lindsey and her family — versus rural property owners who have the right to protect their property and their own animals from feral animals who are destroying their property and threatening their own animals," he said.
The TBVME's ruling culminates 18 months of regulatory and legal wrangling over whether to sanction Lindsey, who used a bow-and-arrow on April 15, 2015, to kill a cat roaming her property. She then posed for a photo with the body and posted the image online with the caption, "... the only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it's (sic) head. Vet of the year award… gladly accepted."
The post went viral, inciting a storm of public criticism and prompting an investigation by local law enforcement that ended in June 2015 when a grand jury declined to indict Lindsey on criminal animal cruelty charges. Texas law permits citizens to kill animals on their property if they're threatening or destructive. Lindsey stated that the cat she shot had been urinating on her porch, harassing her own cat and eating out of feed bags.
Regulators determined that a criminal conviction wasn't needed to bring charges of animal cruelty as a violation of administrative law. The gravity of Lindsey's case mounted with allegations that the cat she killed wasn't a stray but her neighbors' orange tabby, Tiger.
The TBVME moved to revoke Lindsey's license on grounds that her conduct was unprofessional and she engaged in dishonest or illegal practices, violating the state licensing act.
Maggie Griffith, the board's general counsel, said the cat's identity is an "important element" of the case: "We have to show that the animal was owned, and that it was killed without the owner's consent. … We're trying to show that her conduct had an element of criminal intent. We proceeded under an animal cruelty criminal offense."
Ethics charges also were raised against Lindsey, whose defense was that in Texas, the killing of feral cats is generally accepted conduct.
"There is no sanction, short of revocation, that the board can impose that would sufficiently protect the public from respondent's poor professional character," the TBVME said a complaint filed with the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
Fighting the TBVME's attempt to revoke her license, Lindsey appealed to administrative law judges who considered the case last April, roughly a year after the shooting. During a two-day hearing in Austin, Lindsey acknowledged that her Facebook post was "flippant and facetious" and "terribly offensive to many people" but argued that it did not provide a legal basis for revoking her license. She asserted that shooting a feral animal on her property had nothing to do with her conduct as a veterinarian and stated that the cat was not neutered and, therefore, could not be Tiger.
Six weeks after the hearing concluded — and before the administrative law judges entered a ruling — Lindsey's attorney, Bishop, petitioned for a new hearing, alleging that an expert witness for the state perjured himself during his testimony to establish that the cat Lindsey killed was Tiger. The petition was denied in July.
A month later, the administrative law judges recommended the suspension of Lindsey's license for a year, followed by probation. The judges said they believed that the cat Lindsey shot was Tiger and not a feral stray.
The TBVME's final order reflects the judges' recommendations.
By email, Bishop questioned the board's integrity and said the order tramples on the rights of property owners.
"It should be very troubling to regular people that the state of Texas is spending precious tax dollars on the prosecution of someone who was simply protecting her property from a free-roaming feral animal ..." Bishop said. "We will be appealing the board's decision to the District Court, and we are confident that common sense and justice will prevail."
Update: Lindsey appealed her case to the Third Court of Appeals in Austin. In a decision filed April 27, the court stated: "We have overruled Lindsey’s challenges to the Board’s authority to seek disciplinary action against her veterinary license, raised in both appeals, and her challenges to certain findings and conclusion, raised in cause number 03-17-00513-CV. We affirm the judgment in both causes of action."
Further, Lindsey was ordered to pay court costs: "Having reviewed the record and the parties’ arguments, the Court holds that there was no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment. Therefore, the Court affirms the trial court’s judgment. The appellant shall pay all costs relating to this appeal, both in this Court and in the court below."
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 email@example.com.