Have you heard of Dr. Pol or seen his reality TV program on Nat Geo WILD? If not, that’s OK. While the show is called The Incredible Dr. Pol, many veterinarians and pet parents call him “The Incompetent Dr. Pol.” The reason is his unorthodox, old-word veterinary practices.
Who is Dr. Pol?
Before we get into the controversies involving this veterinarian, let’s take a look at who he is. Dr. Pol is a mixed-animal vet in the state of Michigan. He works in a rural area and became a star in reality TV back in 2011.
Dr. Pol, now in in his 70s, first came to the US from the Netherlands back in 1970. He practices what he refers to as “common-sense veterinary medicine.” In the Netherlands, he was a large animal vet, and worked on cows for many years.
At some point, however, he began to work in small animal medicine. He continues to work on cows, but also works on other animals including dogs.
The Dr. Pol Controversy
While there are many pet parents who love Dr. Pol and consider his methods “old-school,” there are others, including veterinarians, who view his methods as brutal, outdated and worse.
Those people who support Dr. Pol say he’s a great vet who cares about treating animals using methods that don’t cost an arm and a leg. They say he also cares about the animals, although some find that debatable.
There are many veterinarians who are horrified by the methods Dr. Pol uses to treat animals of all kinds—from cows to dogs, and more. They argue that his methods cause pain, infections and worse.
Here are some examples of Dr. Pol’s work with animals:
- He amputated a dog’s tail without anesthesia or sterile technique.
- In another situation, a dog’s femoral head (top of the rear leg bone) was cut off without pain medication or sterile technique.
- Another case involved a puppy that had been mauled. The puppy was placed in a cage and died.
- One more example was when Dr. Pol removed the eye from a Boston Terrier without enough anesthesia, pain medication, and did not use sterile technique or intubation on the dog (who suffered from brachycephaly).
These types of cases are enough to make you sick. In spite of these cases, Dr. Pol’s supporters still stand behind him and the kind of veterinary medicine he practices.
Court Rules Against Dr. Pol
In December 2019, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled against Dr. Pol and placed him on professional probation for negligence.
The issues that led to this decision began back in 2013, when a viewer of Dr. Pol’s show criticized the method he used to perform surgery on a dog. The vet performed an ovariohysterectomy on the dog, but Dr. Pol didn’t intubate the dog during the surgical procedure, and failed to use an electronic monitoring device during the surgery. And when he couldn’t find the dog’s uterus, he failed ask for assistance, and then did not perform the surgery wearing a surgical cap, mask or gown.
In 2015, Michigan received another complain when Dr. Pol failed to wear gloves, down, or cap when treat a cut on a horse’s leg, and he failed to trim the hair that was near the laceration.
When these complaints reached the court, the state didn’t prove that Dr. Pol was negligent or incompetent. However, LARA officials rejected the court’s findings, and decided to place Dr. Pol on probation for a “minimum of one day, not to exceed a year” for case of the dog and horse mentioned just above.
At that time, Dr. Pol was ordered to pay all legal costs involved with complying to the terms of the order, was required to serve a probationary period, as well as attend continuing education “in the areas of small animal surgical preparation and monitoring, and small/large animal aseptic technique.”
The vet appealed LARA’s (Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) order, but the appeals court affirmed the decision with its ruling on in December 2019.
Over the years, Dr. Pol has faced many similar rulings, but they’ve been overturned.
Veterinarians & Their View of Dr. Pol
Many vets have complained about Dr. Pol and his TV series from the very beginning. They have said his veterinary methods are ignorant and not up to modern practices and medical standards. Ouch!
Additional terms used in reference to Dr. Pol by fellow vets include “atrocious,” “appalling,” “absolutely unforgivable,” and “embarrassing.” Many vets view Dr. Pol’s reality show as part of the failure of mass media; the show seems to condone his “old world” ways of treating animals, even when it’s obvious the animals may be suffering.
Many vets, as a result, have been calling for Nat Geo WILD to cancel Dr. Pol’s show. They say his methods including lack of pain relief and lax aseptic techniques (and more), are not representative of modern veterinary practices. These vets worry that the public will gain a distorted view of how their pets are treated.
What Does Dr. Pol Have to Say?
The famous TV veterinarian says that his troubles have been caused by minor record-keeping issues, and that the court ruling, and other problems were “engineered” by a rival suffering from professional jealousy.
Overall, Dr. Pol says his fellow vet cannot find anything with his methods, especially since this is how he’s practiced veterinary medicine throughout his career.
The Real Issue
The real issue, in our eyes, comes down to the unnecessary suffering of animals. Any vet who causes or allows animals to suffer, when they could help or prevent pain and infection, should not be practicing veterinary medicine.
In addition, TV programs that show these types of situations are not worth watching, in our humble opinion. While we don’t have the right to speak against him, we’ll have to let you decide on your own whether or not this vet is providing excellent services to his animal patients.
So, there’s the information about Dr. Pol, in case you’ve never heard of him, his TV show or the numerous rulings against him.