Saturday, April 18, 2015

On killing "feral" cats. Will they call it the "Kristen Lindsey" story?

By now you've probably heard of Kristen Lindsey, the woman who apparently shot a wandering cat with a bow and arrow, then bragged about it on Facebook. Warning: graphic photo at that link, and below the fold, here. But you likely have already seen it.

She is also a veterinarian. I say "woman" first rather than veterinarian because...isn't it one seems to be remarking on the fact that it isn't just the stereotyped male cat-hater who "offs" outdoor cats because they have a strong, negative, personal reaction against wandering cats.

It can also be women, and professionals. It's not just folks we like to stereotype, like these hunters who also posted their "kill" on social media.

Dr Lindsey's photo shows her holding a dead cat up in the air with an arrow through his head---proudly---and then she reportedly scoffed at those who suggested she would lose her job.

She lost her job. There is now a petition to have her lose her license.

I can be fairly certain Dr. Lindsey is not the first animal professional to apparently take it into her own hands to quietly make cats disappear. Dr. Lindsey, however, was not quiet about it, if she posted her photo on her Facebook page herself. Probably she knows lots of people who agree with her that "these damned feral cats would be better off dead." I'm sure she's found out now that not enough of them are going to stand up to drown out the masses who disagree.

If this report is accurate, Dr. Lindsey made four mistakes:

#1 Killing a cat in violation of the law
#2 Violating her oath as a veterinarian
#3 Talking about it

#4 and most importantly, she was mistaken in her belief that she could tell a feral cat from an cared-for (owned) cat from a bow-shot length away.

This is a mistake that hundreds of people make, probably daily, in cat management, whether one is ending cat lives, or seeking to save them. It is not just a mistake that one bragging woman made on Facebook.

Cats can't talk. That "feral" cat could be a lost pet someone has been frantically looking for weeks. It could be the next-door pet, out for a stroll (which is not illegal in most places). It could be an un-pettable outdoor cat that someone spent every last dime they had to get sterilized, so she would not add to the population of uncared-for outdoor cats (ferals). Simply blowing something away because it passes into your sights and you have some misled notion of your rightness is not the way society works. The other day a man hit a toddler that ran into the road and stopped in horror. Another man shot at him, and killed not only the driver, but his own nephew. Then the shooter committed suicide. While some may say comparing shooting a cat with a bow is nothing compared to the death of four people, the trigger-finger is the same. Snap judgement, then killing. Something that can't be taken back.

If it turns out this dead cat is indeed Tiger, the 'gator-riding farm cat of YouTube fame, that will be what hangs Dr. Lindsey professionally. She apparently killed a pet. Some professionals might cut her some slack if she actually killed a "feral" cat in poor condition (although an arrow and Facebook bragging rights show appalling lack of professional judgement and caring, and is still a violation of the professional oath). But there isn't much wiggle room that anyone can give you when you gleefully kill your neighbor's beloved farm cat and pet.

I know I have a few cat-destroyers who read this blog. Now and then they leave comments and I delete them, because they leave the same comments all over the internet. They are trolls, that's all. But for the rest of her life, even if she keeps her professional license, when someone Google-images Ms. Lindsey's name when she applies for a job, or submits an abstract to present a conference, this is what will come up first:

If you are the type of person who thinks your personal judgement is above the law, or above professional oaths, think about that. There are plenty of Dr. Lindsey's customers who are coming to her defense, saying that she is great veterinarian. Yet in the court of public opinion, the court of professional colleagues, and the court of law, this may or may not be enough.

Be sure, if you make any illegal decision (even "good" ones--for example, snitching a neighbor's pet to re-home because you don't believe they are caring properly for it) be sure you are in fact making that decision out of actual good will and caring...not out of your own personal certainty of your rightness.

Realize that if this story is correct, Dr. Lindsey is no lone "monster." While I've written this, any number of cats have had their lives snuffed out by people who "know better," or even kind but desperate people who have called around to shelters and rescues for help, found none, and therefore resorted to a burlap bag and a pond for a litter of kittens. Scared tame pets have been euthanized at shelters for being feral. Lost pet cats have been TNR'd and put quietly back out on the streets, without a single "found" poster going up. Mistake #4 is made by thousands of people every year.

This issue is bigger than Dr. Lindsey. Her story just happened to be shouted out loud on Facebook.


  1. That poor cat. Kindness is in short supply and you expect a veterinarian to care about animals, not joke about killing them. LIke those Nazi doctors who tortured and experimented on humans were so highly appalling because they were doctors and we expect a doctor to be compassionate and courageous. We expect the same from a veterinarian. I trapped a feral colony to relocate. Three ended up here. One boy, Slinko, came out as tame an entire year later. It is very difficult to know, as so many cats get lost or abandoned, at least here and quickly turn shy and act feral. With time, they "remember".

  2. The whole thing is highly disturbing - including her arrogance that she was too good a vet to fire.

    It is reported that her mother took the photo. And that one of the clinic techs applauded the original posting.

    There is a whole lot of not good there and one cannot help but think that the culture of killing affects even those who are supposed to be the most compassionate and caring.

  3. I just can't wrap my brain around this. I have no words...

  4. you know, as much as I hate that image and wish to never see it again, you make a valid point that it will haunt her where ever she goes. For that I am very glad.