Dr. Pol accuses fellow veterinarian of libel


Eden Myers, DVM, who filed complaint with Michigan veterinary board, receives warning letter from reality stars lawyers.

The lawyer for Jan Pol, DVM, star of Nat Geo Wild's The Incredible Dr. Pol, has sent a letter alleging that Eden Myers, DVM, made libelous statements on change.org, a site where Myers  posted a petition calling for the cancellation of Pol's show and summarizing the most recent disciplinary action against him.

The Michigan Board of Veterinary Medicine ruled against Pol in March on charges of negligence and incompetence after Myers filed a complaint based on Pol's treatment of a hit-by-car Boston terrier on an episode of the show. The board fined Pol, ordered him take CE classes and placed him on probation for one year.

Jan Pol, DVM

On April 5, Myers posted the news of the Michigan veterinary board's finding on the change.org site and linked to the opinion of the administrative law judge in the case. “NatGeo is now knowingly showcasing obvious and legally determined medical incompetence and negligence,” she wrote. “This company is knowingly selling recordings of illegal acts, and positioning its show to teach people that these acts are desirable-when in fact they have been found in a court of law to harm animals, defraud clients and endanger employees.”

Christopher S. Patterson, JD, legal counsel for Pol, wrote to Myers in a letter dated April 23 that her statement was “utterly false and without merit. … Nowhere in all twelve pages of [his] decision does the administrative law judge find that Dr. Pol harmed any animal, defrauded any client, or endangered any employee. Your post is clearly false and misleading, and your post unfairly damages a great man's reputation and livelihood.”

The letter requests that Myers remove the defamatory remarks from the change.org site, cease and desist publishing defamatory remarks, post a retraction and notify any potential viewers that the post was false. Myers has consulted with a lawyer and is considering a wording change to her petition update. She has also sent a letter dated June 9 back to Pol's attorneys defending her statements and her assessment of the judge's opinion but apologizing for using the word “defraud,” which is defined by specific state criminal statutes.

Christopher J. Allen, DVM, JD, a veterinarian and attorney who writes a legal column for dvm360 magazine, agrees that the fraud accusation could be problematic. “If Dr. Myers were to ask for my advice, I would suggest that she make that word go away,” he told dvm360. But he believes her other remarks most likely fall under the category of opinion, which is not actionable as libelous speech, especially considering that Pol is a public figure.

Under Michigan law, libel and slander damages are not awarded in court unless the plaintiff gives notice to the defendant before filing suit and gives the defendant time to publish a retraction. Myers believes that the letter she received could indicate that Pol will seek damages, if only to make an example out of her for filing a complaint against him with the state board.


Web-based worries

The implied threat of legal action is not the only blowback Myers has experienced since the board's ruling. Supporters of Pol have come out in full force. In the weeks since the ruling, Myers has received hundreds of negative Facebook comments and phone calls. Plus, her email was hacked and she's even received threats of violence toward herself and her family.

“I started having to call the FBI about receiving death threats on the Facebook page,” Myers told dvm360. She now curates her Facebook page much more vigilantly than she did before. “I can't understand how someone can be so rabidly attached to a television show that they are irrational, violent and self-centered, and yet that's overwhelmingly the tone of his supporters. It was really shocking,” she says.

As threats started coming in, Myers looked online for guidance on how to protect herself. “Anything involving death threats goes to the FBI,” she says. “Anything made over the Internet goes to the federal cybercrimes site. Any threat involving violence or harassment should be reported to your local sheriff or police-and if your state has one, to the state-level cybercrimes division as well.”

Online Safety: What you need to know

The time to think about cyberharassment of your veterinary clinic is before it starts.

Having an online presence is an important part of running a business. Your website and social media accounts offer a peek into your practice-and that personal connection is important to clients. But what do you do when something goes wrong and you find yourself flooded by negative Facebook comments, tweets, emails or even threats of violence? Click here for Internet safety tips from Parry Aftab, JD, Internet security lawyer and founder of wiredsafety.org.


Threats on Facebook are handled by Facebook, Myers continues, while Twitter has its own tools and protocol. Anything emailed gets reported to the Internet service provider and email provider. “Hate speech-anything about religion, sexuality or gender-goes to a whole different bevy of agencies,” Myers says.

One of the difficult parts of moderating the online activity is determining which threats are credible and sending that information to the appropriate agency based on the content, Myers says. She has learned that a threat is deemed credible if it contains anything indicating the person actually knows her physical routine or expresses specific intent to harm her family. “I have to read all the posts on the Facebook page, listen to all the voicemail messages, read all the emails, check for tweets, scroll through the comments on change.org,” she says.

In addition to obvious concerns surrounding her family's safety and the time and energy required to monitor the situation, Myers is concerned about the reputation of veterinary medicine. “Is this the general tenor of the attitude of people toward veterinary medicine that's being cultivated by this show?” she asks. “Not that they're being vulgar and vindictive and violent toward me as a person, because they don't know me any more than I know Dr. Pol. My complaint has nothing to do with him as a person. The danger that I sense there is not toward me personally, but to the profession as whole.”

Additional actions

Pol filed an appeal through his lawyer in the Michigan Court of Appeals in mid-May seeking to reverse the disciplinary subcommittee meeting's ruling in which he was ordered to pay a $500 fine, placed on probation for one year, and ordered to take CE courses on intravenous fluids, anesthesia and emergency and critical care. Pol can also have no other violations of the health code while on probation, says Michael Loepp, communications representative with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Pol's publicist, Nancy McCarty Iannios, told dvm360 that the appeal had been filed to “correct the injustice exhibited by the Board of Veterinary Medicine's decision,” and that a libel lawsuit had not yet been filed against Myers. “Dr. Myers has only been notified about our concerns regarding her statements, and we are hopeful she will contact Dr. Pol's legal counsel to resolve our concerns,” she says.

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