Embattled veterinarian Kristen Lindsey, DVM, who admitted using a bow and arrow to kill a cat and then bragged about the act on social media, should learn this fall whether she will keep or lose her Texas license.
A two-day hearing held in late April in Austin featured testimony on whether the cat was feral or actually a neighbor’s pet, how fast the animal died and why rural residents often kill undomesticated cats.
Both sides are expected to submit and respond to written closing arguments by July 1. Two administrative law judges who presided over the hearing will issue a recommendation to the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, which may approve a final decision Oct. 18.
Dr. Lindsey could continue her fight by appealing to a state district court.
Her attorney, Brian Bishop, criticized the board for pursuing the year-old case, which advanced to the hearing after a mediation attempt failed.
“It should be very troubling to Texas taxpayers and to all regulated licensees that the [board] diverted so much in tax money and resources to the prosecution of a license revocation action based on ‘politically incorrect’ actions that had nothing to do with the practice of veterinary medicine,” Bishop said in a statement.
The killing took place in Lindsey’s backyard during her off hours. She was fired from her job at a Brenham, Texas, veterinary hospital soon after she posted a Facebook photograph showing her holding the cat aloft at the end of the arrow.
Animal activists were enraged by the photo and Lindsey’s accompanying comment: “My first bow kill … lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it’s [sic] head! Vet of the year award … gladly accepted.”
A hearing transcript was not immediately released, but representatives of the Animal Legal Defense Fund said Lindsey testified that she believed the cat was feral and that “feral cats are an issue that need to be managed.” She also stated that she “made a good shot, to be quite honest.”
Because the cat’s remains were not recovered, its background remains unproven.
Neighbors Claire and Bill Johnson testified that, based on the Facebook photo, the orange-and-white cat was their pet, Tiger. The Johnsons’ pet sitter, Amy Hemsell, bolstered that opinion, and another state witness, Houston veterinarian William Folger, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP, said the photo revealed Tiger’s distinct markings.
Dr. Folger also testified that:
- The cat appeared to be neutered—as Tiger was. Lindsey said the animal was intact.
- The cat did not die quickly. The photo shows the animal with flexed limbs, a sign that “the cat was absolutely alive when Lindsey’s photo was taken,” according to the feline welfare group Alley Cat Allies.
Lindsey and witnesses testifying on her behalf called the killing of feral cats in rural areas a common practice because, they said, the animals are invasive and predatory and present health risks.
“The preponderance of the creditable evidence presented at the hearing proved that the cat that Dr. Lindsey shot was, as Dr. Lindsey has said all along, a feral tomcat, not the Johnson’s neutered cat Tiger,” Bishop said.
“The undisputed evidence also established that, although offensive to some people, most people who live in rural communities share the sentiment that free-roaming feral cats are undesirable and that property owners have the right to eradicate feral cats that come onto their property in order to protect their own animals and their property.”
A grand jury declined to indict Lindsey on criminal charges. The state board pushed for license revocation, arguing that she committed animal cruelty, acted unprofessionally and showed what the office described as a “lack of empathy” and “poor professional character.”
Board attorney Maggie Griffith, who presented the state’s case, said the board may forgo discipline if the administrative judges side with Lindsey.
“It would be hard for the board to change” the judges’ factual findings and legal conclusions, Griffith said.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund said Lindsey committed a serious ethical violation.
“Legally, it does not matter if Lindsey thought the cat was feral,” the organization stated in a blog post, “only that she was aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the cat was owned and disregarded that risk when she made the fatal shot.”
Alley Cat Allies, whose staff attorney attended the hearing, stated that Lindsey “breached the veterinary code of ethics with her cruel act, and she lacks the compassion and empathy required to care for animals.”
Texas veterinary regulators possess too much authority, Bishop said.
“Veterinarians throughout Texas should also understand that the board’s over-reaching intervention into practitioners’ private lives outside their veterinary medicine practice is a dangerous slippery slope,” he said.