Lindsey Decision Falls Short—But Starts a Larger Conversation

kristen-lindsey__optThe case of Kristin Lindsey, the Texas veterinarian who shot and killed a cat with a bow and arrow, came to a disappointing end this week. Across the board, animal protection organizations had called for a permanent termination of her license. Though Lindsey killed the cat and bragged about it on social media, proudly posting a photo of herself with the dead cat, the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME) declined to terminate her license. Instead, the board only suspended her license for one year with a probation period for four additional years, a slap on the wrist.

Animal activists, cat owners, and myself are justifiably outraged. Killing a cat violates the anti-cruelty laws in all 50 states, regardless of the cat’s relationship to humans. It’s a slap in the face that someone charged with caring for companion animals could kill one and receive such a minor punishment.

But, honestly, as the Director of Legislative Affairs for an organization called For All Animals (emphasis added), it’s not a terribly difficult outcome to understand. For sure, killing a cat for sport sets Lindsey apart from the vast majority of society. Our legal system treats crimes against cats and dogs differently than any other animal. And finding enjoyment and pride from torturing and killing an animal that is treated as a family member in our culture is not normal. However, I don’t believe it’s enormously different from cat lovers who eat meat or call “pest” control to trap and kill raccoons living in their attic. And though it is illegal in most states to kill wildlife without a permit (at least most types of wildlife), had Lindsey killed a raccoon, I doubt anyone would have called on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to charge her with a violation of the state’s hunting laws.

Lindsey claimed that the cat she killed was feral, meaning a cat that lives outdoors who is unsocialized to humans. The hearings held by the Texas AVBME, in part, focused on whether the cat was actually feral or was her neighbor’s pet cat, Tiger (the body was never recovered). Of course, for most people, the answer is irrelevant. No cat should be killed under any circumstances except for true euthanasia.

tigerAnd we can’t say whether Lindsey actually believed the cat was feral. There is significant evidence that she knew the cat was Tiger. But Tiger or not, this was an outdoor cat who lived in a rural area. Lindsey might well have put the cat in a separate category mentally then indoor, pet cats. I have a hard time believing that Lindsey would head over to a friend’s house and shoot their pampered kitty in the head for fun.

More likely, she viewed these different cats as two totally separate and distinct animals, almost different species (pet cats are the same species as feral cats, only their relationship with humans differs). That bifurcated way of thinking isn’t so different from the way that Americans view dogs and cats with one lens and pigs, cows, and chickens with another. This isn’t a new or particularly clever point. For years, animal protection groups have implored people to think about the wildly different ways we treat animals based on their species. But perhaps the case of Lindsey and the ensuing outrage is partially fueled by this uncomfortable truth. Her actions have forced some people to examine their own disordered thinking.

Liz CircleElizabeth ‘Liz’ Holtz is For All Animals’ director of legislative affairs. She is an animal rights attorney and lifelong animal advocate. Liz manages For All Animals’ coalition efforts to pass state laws that protect animals—like strengthening anti-cruelty laws—and defeating laws that harm animals—like ag-gag laws. She also oversees For All Animals’ Attorney at Paw program, which provides assistance to advocates interested in passing laws and ordinances that protect animals on a local level.