Court rules against TV veterinarian Dr. Pol

January 15, 2020

His attorney says popular celebrity vet will continue to challenge the Michigan veterinary board’s decisions.

Last month, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled against celebrity veterinarian Jan Pol, DVM, thus upholding the state’s decision to place the 77-year-old star of Nat Geo Wild’s The Incredible Dr. Pol on professional probation for negligence, according to court records.

The court’s decision affirms a 2018 order by the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), which placed Dr. Pol on probation for negligence when performing surgery on a dog and when treating a wounded horse.

A series of events

The case dates back to 2013, when a TV viewer criticized how Dr. Pol performed an ovariohysterectomy on a dog. The state attorney general investigated the matter and filed a complaint against Dr. Pol for "failing to intubate the dog during surgery, failing to use an electronic monitoring device during the procedure, failing to request assistance locating the dog’s uterus during surgery and failing to wear a surgical cap, mask and gown during the procedure."

In 2015, the state received another complaint from a horse’s owners stating that Dr. Pol was not wearing a cap, gown or gloves when treating a cut on their horse’s leg and that he had also failed to trim the horse’s hair near the laceration.

The administrative law judge who reviewed both complaints concluded that the state had failed to prove that Dr. Pol was negligent or incompetent in his care of the dog or horse. But LARA officials rejected part of the judge’s proposed decision and placed Dr. Pol on probation for “a minimum of one day, not to exceed one year” for “failure to intubate the dog during the procedure, failure to wear a surgical mask and gown during the procedure, and failure to clip the hair around the horse’s wound prior to suturing the wound,” according to court records.

Dr. Pol was ordered to serve a probationary period, pay all costs incurred in complying with the terms of that order, and complete continuing education “in the areas of small animal surgical preparation and monitoring, and small/large animal aseptic technique.”

Dr. Pol appealed LARA’s order, but the appeals court affirmed the decision in its Dec. 19 ruling.

Dr. Pol’s historical fight against LARA’s decisions

This is not the first time Dr. Pol has been accused of negligent practices. Back in 2012, he was put on probation for an April 2010 incident in which he failed to read a canine ultrasound accurately (read about that case here). And in 2014, a veterinarian filed a different complaint against Dr. Pol stating that when performing surgery on a Boston terrier that had been hit by an automobile, Dr. Pol didn’t wear sterile surgical attire. LARA ordered Dr. Pol to pay a $500 fine and serve a year of probation in response to this complaint. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned LARA’s disciplinary action in 2016, stating that the evidence provided was not sufficient.

What’s next for the ‘The Incredible Dr. Pol’?

Dr. Pol, who has been treating pets and livestock in rural Michigan since the 1970s, has seen more than 20,000 patients, according to IMDb. On his TV show, Dr. Pol travels across rural Michigan providing care to animals of all shapes and sizes, from puppies to cows to snakes. The show is currently in its 16th season.

Despite the recent ruling, Dr. Pol has many supporters and several disciplinary actions against him have been reversed in the past. That’s why his attorney, Christopher S. Patterson, JD, isn’t worried. Patterson told dvm360 that the appeals process will not have a negative impact on the TV show. “This case demonstrates how the Michigan Veterinary Board makes arbitrary decisions. The Board even agreed that Dr. Pol’s care was competent,” he said. “We have had these issues with the Board previously, which resulted in the Michigan Court of Appeals reversing the Board for arbitrary and capricious decision-making. Dr. Pol will continue to challenge the Board until a fair and rational process is used for review of veterinary care.”

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