I’ve been inundated with emails about the recent case of a veterinarian who allegedly shot a cat in the head with an arrow. (Warning – the link contains graphic content.) While I like to reserve judgment about everything reported online, the evidence is pointing toward this report being true, and her actions as being deliberate.
The veterinarian in question is a relatively recent (2012) graduate who works at least in part as a small animal veterinarian treating dogs and cats. The incident happened in Texas, where there is a rich history of hunting and weapon ownership. Hunting culture is certainly ingrained in some families (just as it is up here, if we’re honest), and it appears that this woman enjoys hunting and had recently taken up the bow.
Assuming that the reports and increasing detail emerging in the case are true, the cat was not feral but was being fostered by a neighbor and was friendly with people. The posted photo shows that she shot the cat as he faced her, through the head. She then picked him up, hanging from the arrow, and had her mother take a photo of her with the cat. In the photo she was smiling. She then posted the photo to Facebook. The text accompanying the photo reads. “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.”
Let us assume, for the moment, that the veterinarian in question had what might seem (to someone from that culture) to be a legitimate reason to want to remove the cat. Let’s give her all the benefit of the doubt and say that there is a large feral cat population in the neighborhood and feral cats have:
- beaten up and severely injured her pets
- killed her livestock (say, chickens)
- defecated in her kid’s sandbox (potential spread of infectious diseases like toxoplasmosis)
- being unvaccinated, presented a definite risk for the spread of rabies to animals and people
Given all that, was it OK for her to do what she did? Obviously there are a number of issues that arise, and questions that we need to ask. Some of them don’t have black and white answers.
Is it ever ethical for a veterinarian to hunt animals? Yes. I know many vets who are also hunters and fisherman. I do not know any who trophy hunt. All of the hunters I know use what they kill to feed themselves and their families. I do not find anything unethical about hunting, any more than killing animals in any humane way for food. I am not a vegetarian.
Is it ever ethical for a veterinarian to kill an animal? Of course. I killed a cat yesterday. We couch it in more comfortable terms like “euthanasia”, but the animal is dead in the end.
Veterinarians kill animals every day. Why is this any different? I believe that the intent makes a large difference in the ethics of killing. Euthanasia in its true sense is acceptable, killing for its own sake or for a trophy is not. Veterinarians who euthanize animals generally do so to relieve suffering. Sometimes, as in animal shelters, they do so out of necessity. It’s not something done lightly, without consideration for the animal itself, and it’s never the first choice unless the animal is suffering. In this case, killing the cat should not have even been on the radar as an option. This cat was not suffering and there were many other options open to her. Her killing of the cat was not driven by any concern about the cat’s suffering, but by her own desires, which aren’t clear at this time.
Do veterinarians have a higher duty to protect animal life than do members of the general public? Absolutely. We are charged with protecting animals. Caring for them. Defending them. Preserving life. Making whole. We are builders and healers, not pointless destroyers. We are not random killers. We do not hunt our patients.
Were other options and avenues open to this veterinarian? Absolutely. All veterinarians have options that may not be available to the public, simply through their contacts with animal control and rescue groups.
Would shooting a cat or killing a cat by any means other than humane euthanasia be considered a breach of a veterinarian’s duty to care for animals? Absolutely, outside of some kind of extraordinary circumstances.
WTF was she thinking? I have no idea. I can’t get my mind around someone being deliberately cruel to a cat for no reason. And then to boast about it as though it was no big deal, or (worse) something to be proud of… I don’t know. I have no words. Mental illness? Or simply a fundamental character defect?
As far as the internet thing, she’s young, but for pity’s sake she is well educated and smart and should have had some training in what it means to be a professional and a member of a respected profession. I do think that anyone with half a brain knows that if you put it on the internet it’s there forever. Facebook posts are ever only a screen grab away. She’s never, ever going to escape this. She may have just ended her career. I doubt that even crossed her mind, and the fact that it didn’t makes her situation fittingly Darwinian.
And meanwhile there is a family who misses their cat, killed in a very public and horrifying way by someone who was supposed to care about his life. I can only hope that the cat died quickly, though the position of the cat in the photo gives me concern that this isn’t true. My veterinarian friends and I have had infinitely more heartache over this poor cat than this woman appears to have had.
“Poor kitty, I hope it was quick.”
“Sweet cat, can’t look at it (photo) without crying. He looks just like my Waldo, who died last year.”
“I don’t care if he was feral. He’s a cat, for chrissake, and shouldn’t have died like that.”
“Didn’t sleep last night thinking about this little guy.”
“Anyone else still mad as hell about this cat and how he died?”
“Cant imagine lining up a cat’s face in my sights and letting fly, having nightmares about this. How could she?”
“Obviously she didn’t give a shit about cats. She’s not a vet anymore as far as I’m concerned and i don’t care about her degree.”
“I wish I could’ve saved him.”