Thursday, August 18, 2016

What Compels Vets to Forgive? Response to the veterinarians open letter to the vet who killed the cat with an arrow.

I recently read a published open letter from concerned veterinarians worldwide to Dr. Kristen Lindsey. Dr. Lindsay is the vet who killed a cat with an arrow and then posted it proudly on Facebook. She is likely to lose her license and has been the subject of an intense social media backlash. I have already written about this (here) and still feel as sad and angered as I did when it first happened.

A group of vets around the world wrote an open letter to her offering "support and an empathetic ear."  It was published without names to protect anonymity, but I am finding providing forgiveness  for this action a very difficult thing to do.

Clearly my biggest dilemma in life is this unyielding passion I have for animals. It is what compelled me to put up with the grueling list of "required items" to get into AND out of vet school. The degree of personal (and for many financial) sacrifice is what makes the career path both revered and sought after. It is earned. No one would argue otherwise. 

For me, personally, it is why I struggle within my day to day vet life. For every empathetic client who apologizes to me as I euthanize their very sick and suffering pet, I want to say, "Oh, God, this is not the worst part. The worst part is all of the other cases abandoned from assistance due to lack of resources, compassion and options. That's the shit that kills me everyday. Treatable meets unattainable because some human decided to give up than,,, well all of the reasons we get barraged with. People either don't care or can't afford to care. These are the pets that nibble away at my heart. To see a veterinarian so blatantly and callously NOT care about a cat, someone's pet who very likely might have, could have, or would have, been one of her patients, well, that's appalling and disturbing. How can she be a small animal vet and kill a cat like this? And then be so stupid and lacking of remorse to post it? There is not a viable excuse or reason? And now we, the collective group of vets already dealing with stress, anger, debt, suicide, and unresolvable emtional baggage are supposed to say "we care about you anyway?" It tells the world of loving pet parents that we are empathetic to her? For the record I am NOT empathetic to her. I think she needs professional psychological help and to lose her license but not empathy.

When I can take a breath and step back I start to think that maybe it is not lack of empathy but the world of greed, anger and caring that is the disconnect? Maybe if we could all care MORE we could make all of this better? Is that the intent of the letter? But, damn it that big-hearted-rose-colored glass-wearing 6 year old kid inside of me who refuses to let go of the dream of "someday being a vet so that I can save everything,' is still inside me. It makes me crazy with having to protect her from the sad reality of the world we live in. Everyone seems intent on killing everyone and everything else. How do you explain that a  6 year old? How do I tell the 6 year old who someday wants to be a vet that there are some bad people in the world? What do I say to her? To be kind, to be forgiving and to try to always see the good in others? 

Where is the problem of disconnect between vets and the public?
Here are some of the most common reasons I hear on the pet message boards;
1. More concerned about money than the pet. 
2. Inaccessible by either time, price, or indifference.
3. We lack compassion.
4. We are too expensive.
5. They don't trust us.

And I have to admit I do see all of these as being problems within our profession.

But, aren't we a part of the problem? Could we possibly be? Is this letter of open arms and acceptance to an individual who clearly lacks the moral and ethical fiber to stand amongst us not still a reason to forgive but not accept? DO we have to do both to be sincere with either?

I can only speak personally of course. I can tell you that we vets kill (yes, it is kill "to end a life" packaged pretty in a more palatable term "euthanasia") have gotten so comfortable with ending a life that we now have difficulty drawing lines to where "acceptable" meets "unacceptable". I spent about 30 minutes on a vet forum centered around trying to offer help to the staggering number of vets among us at risk for suicide, and still scattered amongst the many pleas for support through rough days, mean clients, rotten practice owners, and cases gone wrong their were members advocating euthanasia for behavior cases (who inevitably were the result of some human hand) because "there are lots of 'nice' dogs being killed already." I was struck by how easily we all have to justify actions that people are struggling with. And we wonder why we are all tired and suicidal?

Would everything be easier if we all just forgave each other? Would the inner turmoil so many of us have about so many difficult aspects of this profession get better? Or should we all take a long look in the mirror and ask ourselves if there is any reasonable expectation to be good an kind to each other and hold a moral compass high? There is a pervasive over arching anger problem among us, but at least we care to challenge each other to invest more of ourselves instead of becoming so hardened by the indifference we loose ourselves in the process. It is a matter of getting out alive, but surrendering your compassion along the way might just be as bad.

Can I forgive Kristen Lindsay? Yes. Just like I have to do with so many of the day to day travesties that walk into the clinic. Do I have to publicly profess that I hope she finds peace with herself and her actions? No. I am not that strong, and I am ashamed of her, the excuses, and the acceptance of caring so little. Perhaps that is the thread that still holds my faith in humankind?

Here is the letter to Kristen Lindsay, as it was published:

"Aug 11, 2016
By staff
Editor's note: The following letter was a collective effort from veterinarians via Facebook to send a message to Kristen Lindsey, DVM, the Texas veterinarian infamous for shooting a cat with a bow and arrow. Lindsey filed a motion for a partial new trial that was recently denied.

Also, a number of veterinarians originally signed this letter with their full names; however, after they received backlash on social media that included death threats, the editors and authors together decided to use initials for all signatories out of concern for personal safety.

Dear Dr. Kristen Lindsey,

The most important trait of any veterinarian is compassion, and we extend our compassion to you. As much as we find your behavior unacceptable for a professional in our field, we can still support you as a person.

As veterinarians, we consider life sacred and suffering abhorrent, including yours. Our profession is already fighting to maintain integrity in the public’s eye, and the veterinary community is now wrestling with the ethical issues—and clients’ subsequent reactions—raised by one of “us” being proud of killing a cat using a method not listed in the AVMA guidelines. Indeed, many supporters of this letter wish to remain anonymous so that they are not associated with these practices. Still, there are larger issues which we hope to address with you in this writing.

Our profession’s suicide and mental illness rates rank among the highest in the United States, and even the world. The fact that public shaming, like that aimed to you, can have serious effects on a person's mental and emotional stability has not escaped our notice, especially given the all too recent links shown between bullying (cyberbullying and other forms) and the preventable loss of our colleagues. Because of this we are concerned for your well-being, and urge you to seek help as necessary. While we cannot speak for you in any legal matter or otherwise—even if that means the veterinary profession may not be in your future—we hope that you find the support you need to emerge from this as a wiser, stronger and more effective member of the community.

You matter. We are here for you should you need a supportive or empathetic ear.



There is cruelty, neglect, pain, and suffering in every corner of life. For Cecil the Lion, the trophy hunting Trump kids, factory farming, feral cats left to repopulate without restriction who are not given medical care when URI hits to leave them victim to be eaten by predators, dogs surrendered by their owner who was too whatever to try another option and are actually told the dog will be killed, and the people who abandon anything I am not sure I want you to know that I am empathetic? Does it add a burden to my already heavy heart? Yes. But I am still here NOT euthanizing healthy treatable animals, still offering every single imaginable option to a person who is in need, and still not surrendering my soul to the excuses that make it easier to be paid to kill, give up, walk away, ignore, disconnect, etc..

This letter needs to be sent to the masses of us. All of us, vets, clients, staff. All. We all need empathy and acceptance. Instead we cling to the opposing conflicting laws of pets are property, herd medicine and its ag-gag laws, over inflated costs of care, and worst ROI of any profession, and for profit vet schools. It's ours to own. Forgiving each other when the shit storm takes possession is a nice start. But now it is time for accepting that we aren't the humble agriculturally rooted members of our community who helped everyone because we were happy and privileged to be in the position  to be blessed and empowered to do so. We like white coats and exceeding the avg client transaction quotas too much.

We have lost our integrity because we make excuses to justify giving it away. We do care but we gave up fighting for it so now we are trapped, alone, afraid and excusing the suffering by ending it. Just what we were all trained to do.

There isn't one member of this profession  that doesn't have bad days, make mistakes and get caught in between a rock and a hard place for your conscious to try to navigate out of. BUT a public display of a lack of moral integrity, compassion and cruelty is not where my empathetic ear is going to be offered. There are "too many nice people out there" who need it first.

About me. Typically I put links to my other social media accounts and activities. For todays raw post I will only add that I struggle with how to be a better member of the pet loving community I serve. I never wanted to be anything  other than the person  I am, and I understand that the world looks different from others perspective. I also understand that posting anything personal leaves me subject to opinion and  backlash. BUT if  I write it, post it, and publish it I own it and stand by it. I don't believe in anonymity. If you want to help other pets find your calling and feed your compassionate heart on


  1. You are a remarkable human being Dr. Magnifico. Please take good care of yourself so you can stay in practice a long time!

  2. This was a powerful, thought out response to the “forgiveness” or “support” from the collective Veterinarian individuals signing the letter. What stands out is the responsive statement to the question “Where is the problem of disconnect between vets and the public?” being “ 5. They don't trust us.”

    This is at the core of life “Trust”. If we don’t have it with those we are dealing with, then there is no “connect”. Whether this be person to person, animal to person, or even animal to animal, it is the foundation of what is good about life and our existence. Veterinarians don’t have a higher standard than everyone else.....they have more responsibility and more opportunity to show that trust to people and animals. This is where the difficulties lie in their day to day interactions with both. We all have, mostly, full control as to how we gain trust with animals, because it is pure...they see it, feel it and return it. However, human trust, is so much more complicated and so much more easily disguised or destroyed by, as example: the first four of the “most common reason of disconnect” referred to above.

    There are many points of discussion from the “letter” itself and the response given to it. The two I want to mention is the struggles many vets have with their conscious in dealing with these day to day issues of helping the pets, and untrusting owners. We as the pet “care givers” ( I don’t like the word “owners”, but that is another topic) need to understand or at least be aware of what the Veterinarian practice has chosen to deal with daily. It could be a big step in gaining that trust and keeping it. Yes, that is the responsibility of the Vets. I believe Dr. Magnificio is a good example of how this can be accomplished. However, “negativity” in people is hard to change, but without change, nothing is accomplished.

    My second point is the basis of the “letter” itself. I think (my opinion only here) the forgiveness or the “support” expressed by the signed vets, is in essence, what devalues public trust in this case. Everything they stand for, was violated by Kirsten Lindsey, and the manner which she shared, smiled, bragged, showed no remorse, etc. about killing the cat, is for me, unforgivable. To even think of her treating someone’s pet, would spell out clearly why there is such
    “ disconnect” with the public.