"The Incredible Dr. Pol" is earning praise from viewers, but veterinarians are offering mixed reviews.
WEIDMAN, MICH. — While the new National Geographic Wild reality show called "The Incredible Dr. Pol" is earning praise from viewers, veterinarians are offering mixed reviews.
Angel Brothers, DVM, of Altoona, Ala., writes on dvm360.com's message boards that she has twice written to National Geographic about her concerns.
In her first letter to National Geographic dated Oct. 31, Brothers writes, "I enjoyed the entertainment value of the show and that Dr. Pol seems like a precious man, but I feel that I need to comment on a few things that I saw that, as a member of the veterinary profession, concerned me.
"Some of his practices showcased in the show were so dated and substandard that it concerns me about the way the show portrays our profession," she continues.
Brothers goes on to cite Pol splinting a calf's leg using wood slivers from a bushel basket and stitching a dog's tail that had been cut off by a screen door with little anesthesia and the owner holding it down.
"Many alarms could go off here but most concerning is that the owner was holding the dog," Brothers writes. "He would be so liable if the dog had bitten her!"
On Nov. 8, Brothers wrote the network again after giving the show a second chance. Her feelings did not change.
"I think I'm more unimpressed and even more irritated than before," Brothers writes. "I really am appalled every time I watch it. Maybe the producers of the show are unaware, but the show is glorifying substandard veterinary care."
"Nat Geo Wild continues to stand behind Dr. Pol and our show. For more than 100 years, National Geographic has promoted the welfare of animals and continues to do so," says Rajul Mistry, a spokesperson for National Geographic after reviewing the comments from veterinarians about the show. "It is an undisputed fact that Dr. Pol has helped thousands of animals throughout his 40-year career as a veterinarian. His very successful clinic has been in business for 30 years, where residents of Michigan count on him to help their sick pets and farm animals. Within the community, Dr. Pol is widely trusted by his clients. He plays an integral role in keeping local farmers' livestock healthy and in turn, their businesses profitable."
Mistry could not provide details about the future of the show at press time.
Pol did not respond to requests for a follow-up interview by press time, but his clinic's Facebook page indicates the veterinarian is currently in talks with National Geographic to film additional episodes of "The Incredible Dr. Pol." The original four episodes, which aired on National Geographic Wild throughout October and December, will be re-run, according to the Facebook page of Pol Veterinary Services.
Brothers is not the only veterinarian critical of the practices depicted on the show.
DVM Newsmagazine received additional phone calls and comments through its website. Most cite a concern for the way the profession is portrayed by the show.
"We still get owners asking if we can do surgery on dogs under local and thinking a steroid injection is the gold standard treatment for any condition. It only takes one vet in an area practicing at this standard and the others appear to be over-servicing to budget-conscious clients," writes Dallas McMillan, BVSc, of Queensland, Australia. "There are times when you do need to take shortcuts, but there is always risks and downsides, and it sounds like this show is glorifying the 'cowboy' approach to vet science without exploring the negatives."
"I am glad to read that I wasn't the only one who felt that veterinary medicine just regressed by 30 years or more when I watched the show," writes Leslie, a registered veterinary technician from California. "A likeable guy for sure, but helping promote veterinary medicine in 2011? No way!"
Some of DVM Newsmagazine's readers report contacting the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) regarding their concerns about the show, but AVMA did not return calls seeking comment.
According to the Michigan Board of Veterinary Medicine, Pol has an active license and is in good standing.