Michigan appeals court finds in favor of Dr. Pol

July 1, 2016
Katie James, dvm360 Associate Content Specialist
Katie James, dvm360 Associate Content Specialist

Katie James is an Associate Content Specialist for UBM Animal Care. She produces and edits content for dvm360.com and its associated print publications, dvm360 magazine, Vetted and Firstline. She has a passion for creating highly-engaging content through the use of new technology and storytelling platforms. In 2018, she was named a Folio: Rising Star Award Honoree, an award given to individuals who are making their mark and disrupting the status quo of magazine media, even in the early stages of their careers. She was also named an American Society of Business Publication Editors Young Leader Scholar in 2015. Katie grew up in the Kansas City area and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism. Outside of the office her sidekick is an energetic Australian cattle dog mix named Blitz.

Overturns disciplinary action ordered by state regulatory board in relation to negligence, incompetence findings.

Jan Pol, DVM, owner of Pol Veterinary Services in Weidman, Michigan, holds Mr. Pigglesworth, who is owned by Mable and Loyd Frisbie, at right. (Photo courtesy of Nancy McCarty Iannios, Core PR Group)Disciplinary action taken against Jan Pol, DVM, star of Nat Geo Wild's The Incredible Dr. Pol, by the Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Association (LARA), in regard to an administrative complaint filed against him in 2014, has been overturned on appeal. The Michigan Court of Appeals found 3-0 in favor of Pol, overturning the $500 fine and year of probation LARA had ordered.

The complaint, filed by Eden Myers, DVM, who was concerned about the treatment of a patient featured on the television show, resulted in charges of negligence and incompetence at the administrative hearing. The patient in question, a Boston terrier named Mr. Pigglesworth, had been hit by a car and suffered from lacerations, a broken pelvis and an eye that was hanging from the socket.

During surgery to remove the eye, suture the eye socket closed and suture a cheek laceration, Pol didn't wear sterile surgical attire, according to Myers' complaint. Also at issue was the fact that Pol's unlicensed son, Charles, assisted in the surgery and that Pol did not provide intravenous therapy to the dog during the surgical procedure or a warming support in the dog's postoperative kennel, according to the complaint.

In the appeals court's decision, in which judges refer to the "curious case of Mr. Pigglesworth," the judges seem perplexed that Pol was reprimanded when the dog in question survived and its owners were happy with its care. They found that the sanctions imposed by the regulatory board were not supported by the evidence given.

"We cannot conclude that the administrative decision in this case is supported by competent, material and substantial evidence on the whole record. The evidence submitted does not establish a clear standard of care that respondent violated," the court's opinion states. "Given the numerous references in the [proposal for decision] that go outside the scope of the allegations in the complaint, references to items not in the record, and the hearing officer's own opinion as to the need for mandatory continuing education and a formal standard of care, it can even be said that the decision is ultimately arbitrary and capricious."

Pol told dvm360 in a statement that he is "pleased but not surprised by the ruling of the State of Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn the findings of the Michigan Bureau of Health Care Services board. The ruling reaffirms what I have always known, that the care we gave Mr. Pigglesworth was appropriate and saved the dog's life. I will continue to advocate for common sense, affordable vet care within the veterinarian community. I am thankful for the support I received from the farmers and ranchers who are my clients, and for National Geographic Channel for standing with me on this issue."

A spokesman for LARA declined to comment, saying that the board needs to review the decision with the Michigan Attorney General's office. Myers told dvm360 that she did her part and the authorities in Michigan took it from there. "The profession of each state gets to regulate itself as the community of that state sees fit," she said. "Michigan gets to be the way Michigan wants to be."