Maybe you remember the post from last June: A veterinarian who practices a few blocks from my home here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, made headline news when she bragged of her intention to poison an animal to death. Dr. Joan Moreau suspected a coyote had killed her beloved barn cat, and on her Facebook wall, posted a description of the revenge she planned to exact. See here for full story.
Santa Feans (including this one) were outraged. Why would a veterinarian, who knows what a prolonged and agonizing death poison causes, use such a means to kill an animal who was only satisfying its natural struggle for survival? And why would she do it so indiscriminately, leaving the toxin outside, drenched in meat sauce, for any innocent animal in the area to find and ingest?
Complaints were filed with the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine following the incident. Yesterday, citizens learned the results of the investigation: complaints dismissed, case closed.
As my attorney friend explained to me, this outcome represents less a judgment on Dr. Moreau’s ethics, more an illustration of the limitations of the Board of Veterinary Medicine: The group has little power to act when an incident occurs outside of a veterinarian’s specific practice, and even less jurisdiction if the individual has been neither officially charged nor found guilty of anything. Because Moreau was never brought to trial for this incident, much less convicted of animal cruelty, the Board can’t legally do a whole lot.
Outside the arena of state governing bodies and boards (and maybe even within), people are wondering, how could a veterinarian do this? And I get it — you’d think a person who has taken a oath to provide a humane end to suffering might be imbued with a little more compassion. But I’ll go even a step further: How could anyone with the undeniable awareness that poison causes excruciating pain take such action? What kind of human(e) being does this?
I realize that people regularly end the lives of animals — or at least reap the benefits — all the time, whether it’s for a cheeseburger or a fur coat. These are moral choices we allow every human individual to make for him or herself. But this incident is different. Acting with the sole intent of causing suffering falls into a separate category, one of a sinister nature. Most locals I’ve talked with would have been more comfortable had Moreau simply shot the offending coyote in the head. At least the death would have been immediate.
I’m not happy this case is closed, but I don’t know who in a position of authority has the power to make a difference at this point. Even if every person on the Board of Veterinary Medicine was disgusted and saddened by this episode, legally it sounds like they had few options. Perhaps this will inspire them to change the bylaws of their organization, casting a wider net when it comes to actions performed in one’s personal life.
In the meantime, as long as Dr. Moreau continues to defend her actions — and refuses to acknowledge that causing seven days of intense suffering is reprehensible — she will forever be known to many of us in the area as the veterinarian who poisons animals.
Maybe that legacy will be justice enough.