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Lack of evidence prevents prosecution of alleged cat bow-kill

Article

Kristen Lindsey, DVM, will not face criminal charges associated with Facebook post that outraged public, her colleagues.

Getty ImagesKristen Lindsey, DVM-who posted a photo on Facebook of what she says was a dead feral cat she bragged about killing with a bow and arrow-will not be prosecuted by the criminal district attorney in Austin County, Texas. A release from district attorney Travis Koehn's office says the Austin County Grand Jury examined all the evidence presented and determined there was insufficient proof to charge Lindsey with a crime.

The attorney's office states that after a thorough investigation by the Austin County Sheriff's Office, investigators were unable to confirm where or when the incident took place. Subpoenas to Facebook proved fruitless, failing to produce useable evidence, investigators said. Without a confirmed time and place, officers lacked probable cause to obtain a search warrant. The district attorney's office says the state lacked proof that the incident even occurred in Texas.

Authorities can't establish identity of cat

Further, despite claims online naming a local pet cat the victim, investigators say they were never able to positively confirm the identity of the cat seen in the photograph. "Although one witness believes the cat to be a pet named Tiger, three different area residents had fed similar looking cats at one time or another that had no collar and had strayed," the release states.

For the state to have successfully prosecuted Lindsey, Texas Penal Code requires the state to prove either that Lindsey killed a cat without the owner's consent or that she killed a stray cat in a cruel manner. While many commenters and veterinary colleagues online said shooting a cat through the head with a bow and arrow was cruel, the release cites American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines that state the killing of animals by "gunshot or bolt to the head can be humane when done correctly."

'Bow kill' not recommended practice

A review of the AVMA's guidelines for appropriate methods of euthanasia for cats-feral or otherwise

Dismayed by the Austin County Texas district attorney's misinterpretation of the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, assistant director of AVMA media relations Sharon Granskog provided dvm360 with a specific look at section 1.3.3 of the guidelines. As excerpted from page 45:

"Use of a penetrating captive bolt by trained personnel in a controlled laboratory setting has been described as an effective and humane method of euthanasia for rabbits and dogs. The bolt must be placed directly against the skull; therefore, safe and effective application of the technique may be facilitated by pre-euthanasia sedation or anesthesia. Penetrating captive bolt is not recommended as a routine approach to the euthanasia of dogs, cats, or other small companion animals, and should not be used when other methods are available and practicable."

Although not specifically addressed in the guidelines, AVMA does not recommend use of a bow and arrow to euthanize a cat, Granskog says. She also provided information regarding AVMA's policy for recommended approaches for managing unowned and free-roaming cats. Policy suggests that free-roaming cats be humanely captured, with placement in homes when appropriate.

"All free-roaming abandoned and feral cats that are not in managed colonies should be removed from their environment and treated in the same manner as other abandoned and stray animals in accord with local and state ordinances," Granskog says.

Click here to read the AVMA's guidelines, and click here to read the AVMA's policy on managing free-roaming, abandoned and feral cats.

However, the AVMA does not support that claim in this situation. Sharon Granskog, assistant director of AVMA media relations, told dvm360 that the association was surprised by the reference to the 2013 edition of the Guidelines for Euthanasia of Animals, as AVMA was not asked to provide information regarding the case. Granskog says the attorney general's interpretation of section 1.3.3 of the guidelines was inappropriate. "A captive bolt is a specific tool, and an arrow is not a captive bolt," she says. "Based on the image attributed to Dr. Lindsey and shared on social media, we cannot determine if the cat died immediately. Use of a bow and arrow is not addressed when discussing recommended approaches for the euthanasia of cats." 

Protection as defense

Prosecution in the case was complicated further as it was based initially on an unsworn hearsay report that Lindsey might have acted to protect her pets from "a potentially rabid stray cat." A person's right to protect his or her pets from an attack is a defense to animal cruelty charges in Texas.

"Although evidence is insufficient that an offense occurred here, both Austin and Washington counties are suffering from an outbreak of rabies cases, and at least one local resident is currently undergoing treatment after contact with a rabid animal," the release from the District Attorney's Office notes. 

Lindsey's veterinary license still at risk

Although no further criminal action will be taken against Lindsey, the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME) still retains the authority to decide whether Lindsey should retain her veterinary license. Although TBVME public information officer Loris Jones cannot disclose information regarding the board's investigation into the Lindsey case, she did confirm that the board's process and procedure is completely separate from that of law enforcement.

Since late April-when the photo and subsequent comments were posted and quickly deleted from Lindsey's Facebook page-public and professional sentiment has been overwhelming against the young veterinarian. On the day of the Facebook post, the clinic Lindsey worked for, Washington Animal Clinic in Brenham, Texas, released a statement that Lindsey had been fired. Duct tape covered her name on the clinic's sign.

The AVMA has condemned Lindsey's alleged actions, and her alma mater, Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has publicly denounced the "grotesque actions and comments displayed in that post." Publicly, Lindsey has been silent. 

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