Thursday, June 25, 2015

My Response to the Criminal District Attorney's Office of Austin County's Press Release

An Open Letter to the Criminal District Attorney’s Office, Austin County,

Congratulations. You have gloriously failed Tiger, along with the tens of thousands of humans, and hundreds of thousands of abused animals who were watching you with the earnest hope that a rational, and public champion for the prevention of cruelty to animals had finally stepped forward. Instead, you have proven, yet again, that those in authority are most often in that position because they’ve chosen to take the easy route whenever faced with an obstacle. In a state that leads the Nation in criminal executions, you decided that you couldn’t be bothered to mount a thorough prosecution against a woman for inhumanely butchering the beloved pet of a local family.
I’m not talking about the Grand Jury’s failure to indict Kristen Lindsey . I’m talking about the fact that you, the Criminal District Attorney of Austin County, did not provide the Grand Jury with enough evidence to indict Kristen Lindsey- likely knowing that the wrath of the public would fall on the Grand Jury, rather than your office. I am not a lawyer, I am not an expert on legal matters, but I understand this game of public appearances, and I haven’t been fooled by your attempt at diversion. There was no lack of evidence in this deplorable - and very blatant - situation of animal cruelty. Rather, there was, decidedly, a lack of effort put forth to gather, and present that evidence. If the Criminal District Attorney’s Office chose to collect the evidence required to gain an indictment of Lindsey by the Grand Jury, they would have obtained an indictment. Instead, the Criminal District Attorney of Austin County shuffled a few papers, requested more time for gathering evidence in order to convince the public that they were applying sufficient attention to the matter, and then, in actuality, did nothing.
In your press release, you stated that while you subpoenaed Lindsey’s Facebook account, it was unsuccessful because the account had been deleted. Just to make you aware, this is the twenty-first century, and nothing on the internet is ever truly deleted. Erased from one location, maybe, but eradicated from existence? Never. If that had been a photograph of child trafficking, or pornography, I guarantee you, that a ‘deleted account’ would serve as nothing but a speed bump for you on your way to justice. I did not realize that simply deleting posts on Facebook is sufficient to stop the authorities from ever successfully finding evidence of a crime. Someone should let the Federal Bureau of Investigation know that they’re wasting tens of millions of tax dollars on their Cybercrime Division.
You also stated in regard to Lindsey’s Facebook photograph, and caption that “Evidence is insufficient, based on the online photograph alone, to determine whether the animal was killed in a cruel manner,” and then you cited the American Veterinary Medical Association’s guidelines on humane euthanasia, again, I suspect, just to prove that you’ve ‘researched’ the matter. Or that some intern in your office has ‘researched’ it, at least enough to sound like you cared. But as your own citation reveals your complete ignorance - or your determination to just make the subject ‘go away’, I can’t decide which - let us examine these AVMA guidelines that you proudly hailed as proof that you couldn’t conclude from a single photograph that Tiger was inhumanely killed.

Here is what you said in your press release, and I quote:

‘First, the American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines state that physical methods of killing animals such as a gunshot or bolt to the head can be humane when done correctly. (A.V.M.A. Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, 2013 Ed., at 11-12). When performed properly, the animal may exhibit involuntary movements but is unaware and unable to experience pain. (A.V.M.A. Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, 2013 Ed., at 16). Evidence is insufficient, based on the online photograph alone, to determine whether the animal was killed in a cruel manner.’

I’m not going to properly cite the reference, I’m simply going to copy and paste the entire thing. Here is the full passage in regard to humanely dispatching animals by physical methods:

‘Physical methods of euthanasia include captive bolt, gunshot, cervical dislocation, decapitation, electrocution, focused beam microwave irradiation, thoracic compression, exsanguination, maceration, stunning, and pithing. When properly used by skilled personnel with well-maintained equipment, physical methods of euthanasia may result in less fear and anxiety and be more rapid, painless, humane, and practical than other forms of euthanasia. Exsanguination, stunning, and pithing are not recommended as a sole means of euthanasia, but may be considered as adjuncts to other agents or methods.
Some consider physical methods of euthanasia aesthetically displeasing. There are occasions, however, when what is perceived as aesthetic and what is most humane are in conflict. Despite their aesthetic challenges, in certain situations physical methods may be the most appropriate choice for euthanasia and rapid relief of pain and suffering. Personnel using physical methods of euthanasia must be well trained and monitored for each type of physical method performed to ensure euthanasia is conducted appropriately. They must also be sensitive to the aesthetic implications of the method and convey to onlookers what they should expect to observe when at all possible.
Since most physical methods involve trauma, there is inherent risk for animals and people. If the method is not performed correctly, personnel may be injured or the animal may not be effectively euthanized; personnel skill and experience are essential. Inexperienced persons should be trained by experienced persons and should practice on euthanized animals or anesthetized animals to be euthanized until they are proficient in performing the method properly and humanely. After the method has been applied, death must be confirmed before disposal of the remains.
Penetrating captive bolts have been used for euthanasia of ruminants, horses, swine, laboratory rabbits, and dogs.331 Their mode of action is concussion and trauma to the cerebral hemisphere and brainstem.48,332,333 Adequate restraint is important to ensure proper placement of captive bolts. A cerebral hemisphere and the brainstem must be sufficiently disrupted by the projectile to induce sudden loss of consciousness and subsequent death. Appropriate placement of captive bolts for various species has been described.130,332–335 Signs of effective captive bolt penetration and death are immediate collapse and a several-second period of tetanic spasm, followed by slow hind limb movements of increasing frequency.46,47 The corneal reflex must be absent and the eyes must open into a wide blank stare and not be rotated.45
There are two types of penetrating captive bolts: a regular penetrating captive bolt and an air injection penetrating captive bolt. In both cases, the bolts penetrate the brain. In the air injection penetrating captive bolt, air under high pressure is injected through the bolt into the brain to increase the extent of tissue destruction. Powder-activated guns that use the traditional captive bolt are available in 9 mm, .22 caliber, and .25 caliber.130 Captive bolt guns powered by com- pressed air (pneumatic) are also available in regular and air injection types. All captive bolt guns require careful maintenance and cleaning after each day of use. Lack of maintenance is a major cause of captive bolt gun failure for both powder-activated and pneumatic captive bolt guns.101 Cartridges for powder-activated captive bolt guns must be stored in a dry location because damp cartridges will reduce effectiveness.336
Advantages—(1) Both regular and air injection penetrating captive bolts may be used effectively for euthanasia of animals in research facilities and on the farm, when the use of drugs for this purpose is inappropriate or impractical. (2) They do not chemically contaminate tissues.
Disadvantages—(1) Euthanasia by captive bolt can be aesthetically displeasing. (2) Death may not occur if equipment is not maintained and used properly. (3) The air injection captive bolt must never be used on ruminants that will be used for food because of concerns about contamination of meat with specified risk materials (neurologic tissue). (4) Because the penetrating captive bolt is destructive, brain tissue may not be able to be examined for evidence of rabies infection or chronic wasting disease.
General recommendations—Use of the penetrating captive bolt is acceptable with conditions and is a practical method of euthanasia for horses, ruminants, and swine. To ensure death, it is recommended that animals be immediately exsanguinated or pithed (see adjunctive methods) unless a powerful captive bolt gun de- signed for euthanasia is used. These guns have recently become available and reduce the need to apply an adjunctive method. Ruminants used for food should not be pithed to avoid contamination of the carcass with specified risk materials. Captive bolt guns used for larger species must have an extended bolt.

Well then. That’s quite a bit of information you didn’t offer the public, either because you didn’t think it was relevant, or because you didn’t want to draw attention to it. Since you saw fit in your press release to pick out a single fragment of information from within a plethora of it, I’m going to do the same thing here, by highlighting just a few other points.

  • Penetrating captive bolts have been used for euthanasia of ruminants, horses, swine, laboratory rabbits, and dogs.
  • Adequate restraint is important to ensure proper placement of captive bolts.
  • Inexperienced persons should be trained by experienced persons and should practice on euthanized animals or anesthetized animals to be euthanized until they are proficient in performing the method properly and humanely.
  • Because the penetrating captive bolt is destructive, brain tissue may not be able to be examined for evidence of rabies infection or chronic wasting disease.

Nowhere in the section regarding physical methods of euthanasia does the AVMA state that either penetrating captive bolts, or non-penetrating captive bolts are considered a humane method of euthanasia for cats. On top of that, a penetrating captive bolt is a self-contained unit, from which a bolt is expelled into the skull and brain of an animal, and then retracted into the unit. The photo Lindsey posted of herself clearly shows a full length arrow protruding from both the front and the back of the cat’s head, and she herself proclaimed it a ‘bow kill’. Not a bolt kill. The perpetrator herself announced that she was using a bow, not a AVMA recognized method of euthanasia.
If the cat was feral, as Lindsey has stated multiple times she believed it to be, it’s not possible for the animal to have been restrained at the time of ‘euthanasia’ in order to assure that it was quickly and humanely killed.
Unless Lindsey has been secretly euthanizing animals repeatedly with a penetrating captive bolt, she is not experienced, and thus is outside the AVMA guidelines on the face of it, never mind the fact that Tiger was not killed with an approved bolt gun, but a bow and arrow.
And lastly, there have been references to the fact that Lindsey thought Tiger was feral and was afraid the cat was rabid, and The Austin Country Sherrif's Office said that they ‘received an unsworn hearsay report that Lindsey was protecting her pets from a 'potentially rabid stray cat’. Interesting, considering that the AVMA guidelines clearly state that penetrating captive bolt euthanasia can damage the brain, making it impossible to determine whether or not the euthanized animal had rabies. One would think that a vet, of all people, would know this, and would take care not to damage the animal’s brain. So was Tiger ‘feral’ and unwanted, or ‘rabid’ and endangering Lindsey’s other animals? Or was he, in fact, just a pet she thought she’d kill for fun?
Finally, we have the matter of proving that the cat in the photograph is, in fact, Tiger, the missing pet. Horses can be positively identified by nothing more than trichoglyphs (whorls) in their hair growth. I find it impossible to believe that the District Attorney’s office was unable to make even a rational argument for identification of the cat in the photograph. If the photo depicted a dead human, the lack of a body would not result in a ‘sorry, we tried’ shrug. That Tiger didn’t happen to be wearing a neon sign proclaiming his name and the fact that he was owned does not mean he was a stray. The striations of a tabby cat are not unlike the fingerprints of a human. Individual Snow Leopards, Jaguars, Leopards, and Tigers can be identified on game cameras by their unique coat patterns. Similarly, whales can be identified by callosity patterns, scars, and fluke shapes. This is not bunk science, it’s actual science. Lindsey’s own photograph provides you with a full side view of Tiger, and Tiger’s owners can provide, and have provided, multiple full side views of Tiger while he was alive. Tiger can be identified as Tiger from the photo provided. It’s simply a matter of applying effort.
If they wanted to, the Criminal District Attorney’s Office of Austin County could indict a couch cushion under the charge of aiding and abetting the delinquency of a minor who gained weight and developed diabetes. But would take some effort. And obviously, despite the continued scientific links between animal abuse and criminal activity, despite the tens of thousands of people calling for justice for Tiger, and straining for forward steps in the prosecution of animal cruelty in general, the Texas District Attorney felt that it had better things to do, and more important things to worry themselves over. Perhaps, for example, the next planned execution of a criminal who was caught, by tracking his movements online, and convicted of murdering someone without the victim’s body ever being recovered.
And the worst part about this - besides that Tiger is still dead, and Lindsey is still free and living her own life - is that the Criminal District Attorney’s Office thinks so very little of the intelligence of the public at large, and has so little in the way of courage that instead of simply stating that they would not seek charges against Lindsey, they dragged the matter to the Grand Jury without bothering to provide them with any evidence, and then merely claimed it wasn’t possible to gather that evidence. I’ve no doubt that you hoped the public would take their anger out on the Grand Jury, rather than the Criminal District Attorney who ‘attempted’ to have charges brought. A grievously spineless, and simultaneously pretentious action. It is my sincere hope that in the struggle against animal cruelty, the Texas District Attorney’s Office be remembered in perpetuum as an icon of what it is that we rail against in our fight.

The press release from the Texas District Attorney’s Office can be found here:

The AVMA guidelines for humane euthanasia can be read in full here:

To learn more about identifying animals by their coat patterns, whisker patterns and other patters see: