Last September I wrote about Dr. Kristen Lindsey. The Texas vet’s story has made headlines intermittently since her initial, notorious acts. For those who are unfamiliar with or have forgotten the story (although I rather doubt that many people could forget the story after hearing it), here is a brief recap.
Lindsey’s path to disgrace began in April 2015, when she did something unthinkable to a cat and cat lovers, a group that of course includes the overwhelming majority of veterinarians. She went hunting for a cat with a bow and arrow, and she got one (according to her).
She almost certainly would have gotten away with it if she had not made another huge mistake. Like so many careless young attention seekers these days, she turned to Facebook to display her braggadocio. She posted a picture of the “dead” “feral” “tomcat” (quote marks explained below) on her page along with some semi-literate comments about the worthlessness of tomcats.
A person responding to the post was the first to sense that the whole thing could head south for Lindsey. He asked whether Lindsey was worried about losing her job. She took the opportunity to revel in her awesomeness. She wouldn’t lose her job, she proclaimed.
Wrong. She was fired almost as soon as her employer found out. What’s more, the chances of her ever practicing veterinary medicine again seem slim. More on that in just a bit.
Lindsey initially faced the prospect of criminal charges. Last fall the public was outraged when a grand jury failed to indict her. But it wasn’t over. The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners moved to revoke her veterinary license. That would make it impossible for her to practice in Texas and very difficult to practice legally anywhere else in the developed world. (When applying for a veterinary license, applicants generally must answer questions about whether they ever have faced discipline from a state board in a another jurisdiction.)
Kristen Lindsey has been fighting the Texas board since October 2015. The matter finally came to a head recently, on April 25-26, at a hearing in which she and her attorney faced off against the board. Alley Cat Allies covered the hearing and dispatched a press release afterward. Some of the information in the group’s coverage caused me to see the case, and Lindsey, in a new and even worse light.
First there is the matter of the feral tomcat that Dr. Lindsey bragged about shooting. From near the start of the affair, some neighbors claimed the cat Lindsey bragged about killing was in fact their (missing) neutered male cat, Tiger.
At the hearing, presenters offered side-by-side comparisons of Lindsey’s infamous photo along with a photo of Tiger. I spent quite a bit of time comparing the two cats. They look the same to me.
This caused me to look at the infamous photo (part of which is shown below) — the one in which Lindsey is pictured holding the skewered cat by the tail of the arrow — with a more critical eye. I’ve met a lot of feral cats. They don’t generally thrive. They tend to be stunted in their growth. They’re usually poorly flushed out, and they often have visibly unkempt hair. The cat in the photo was large, flush, and well groomed.
And was he actually a tomcat? A tomcat is an un-neutered male. It can, in general, be difficult to differentiate female cats from males. They are said to have minimal “sexual dimorphism.” However, this applies mainly to neutered individuals. A person with a trained eye can readily recognize an un-neutered male cat. They have broad faces. They are muscular. Of course, the testicles also can be hard to miss in some instances.
In Lindsey’s infamous photo, the cat’s scrotal area is not pointing at the camera. But I can’t help noticing that the cat looks soft in body tone and has an androgynous head and face. He looks, to me, like he was neutered before puberty.
In other words, to me the cat in the photo does not look like a feral tomcat. He looks like an owned cat, and he looks like Tiger.
The legal status of the cat — owned or unowned — might be relevant to the hearing. Pet cats, legally speaking, are property. Taking or killing another person’s property may have greater consequences than killing a feral cat.
But for the purposes of most people following the case, including me, the ownership status of the cat is irrelevant. Lindsey bragged about shooting a cat with an arrow. That’s all I need to know.
As I continued to read the Alley Cat Allies information, I came upon the following synopsis from the testimony of one of the most respected cat veterinarians out there, Dr. William Folger.
Folger believes that, based on the flexing of the cat’s legs, the cat was absolutely alive when Lindsey’s photo was taken.
That gave me pause. I went back to the infamous photograph. It depicts a cat, pierced through the back of the head by an arrow, being held up by the arrow for the trophy shot. His forelimbs hang out from his body at an approximate 90 degree angle. His hindlimbs bend approximately 90 degrees at the knees.
I am sorry to say that I have encountered many dead cats in my life. A cat that has recently died will not hold his limbs at those angles. The limbs will be flaccid. If the cat in the photo were dead, the forelimbs would be expected to hang limply at his sides, and the knees should be much straighter because the hips would be relaxed, causing the hindlimbs also to hang in a flaccid fashion.
The photo therefore, in my opinion (and that of Folger), may indeed depict a cat who is not dead, but who instead is in the process of dying and may be suffering intensely. This is relevant because Lindsey claimed in her defense that she had euthanized — or painlessly killed — the cat.
Like most people reading this piece, I hope that Texas strips Lindsey of her license. Even if it does, it will be nothing more than a symbolic victory. Regardless, Lindsey is done. What employer these days does not perform a Google search on all prospective employees? Outfits such as Alley Cat Allies and the Animal Legal Defense Fund have been following and writing about the story intensely. Catster has run several stories. Many others, including, I’m proud to say, me, have contributed to a Google problem from which Lindsey is unlikely ever to recover.
Some have urged forgiveness for Lindsey. They point out that she is young and had a lapse of judgment. Is it right for her to pay for a moment’s poor judgement with a lifetime of exile from her chosen profession?
My answer again is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s right or wrong, fair or unfair. It will happen regardless of anyone’s moral quandaries or meditations. The bell cannot be un-rung.