The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled against a former Mayville resident who’s the star veterinarian on the reality-TV show “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” upholding a state decision to place him on professional probation for negligence.
The appeals court’s Dec. 19 decision affirmed an order by state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) officials who placed Dr. Jan Pol on probation for negligence and failure to exercise due care relating to surgery he performed on a dog and his treatment of a wounded horse.
Pol, 77, was a Dutch foreign-exchange student who attended Mayville High School, where he met his wife, Diane (Dalrymple) Pol, who is a co-star on the TV show on Nat Geo Wild. The show, starting its 16th season, is the network’s No. 1 offering, according to cheatsheat.com.
The show’s website, thedrpol.com, states “We’re working on something really big! Stay tuned …” with no further details or links.
The Pols married in Mayville in 1967 and lived in Mayville for nine months, later moving to Harbor Beach where Jan (pronounced “Yon”) Pol worked as a veterinarian. Later, they moved near Weidman, northwest of Mount Pleasant, where they started their own veterinary practice.
The TV show follows Pol “across rural Michigan to care for every family pet and head of livestock in need of his expertise,” according to imdb.com, which notes Pol has seen “more than 20,000 patients.”
A viewer of the TV program, however, took issue with the manner Pol performed an ovariohysterectomy procedure on a dog, and filed an administrative complaint with the state, according to the appeals court ruling.
The state Attorney General then investigated and filed a complaint against Pol, alleged he failed to intubate the dog or place an intravenous catheter in the dog during surgery, failed to use an electronic monitoring device during the procedure, failed to request assistance locating the dog’s uterus during the surgery and failed to wear a surgical cap, mask and gown during the surgery.
The state later received another complaint from owners of a horse who claim Pol – while treating a laceration on the animal’s hip – failed to wear surgical gloves and didn’t reduce the hair surrounding the wound.
The appeals court ruling notes the complaints were heard by an administrative law judge who issued a proposed decision concluding the state failed to prove Pol was negligent or incompetent in his care of the dog or horse, and maintaining Pol shouldn’t be subject to sanctions such as probation.
LARA officials, however, rejected part of the judge’s proposed decision, according to court documents, placing Pol on probation for “a minimum of one day, not to exceed one year.” That decision was based on Pol’s “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.”
Pol appealed the LARA order, though the appeals court affirmed the decision in its Dec. 19 ruling issued by Judges Anica Letica, Michael F. Gadola and Thomas C. Cameron.
“Because (LARA’s) findings of fact are supported by competent, material and substantial evidence on the whole record and (LARA’s) decision was not arbitrary and capricious, this court must affirm (LARA’s) final order,” the judges’ opinion states.
LARA officials concluded Pol violated the state Public Health Code by failing to clip the hair around the horse’s wound before treating the wound, according to court documents. The appeals court noted LARA officials “noted that the record supported that the horse had a long winter coat” when Pol treated the wound.
LARA officials also cited testimony of two veterinarians, Dr. Joseph Kline and Dr. Lisa Zeppa. According to the appeals court ruling, Kline testified that Pol’s failure to intubate the unconscious dog during surgery violated the standard of care because “having an unprotected airway is an unsafe practice.”
When asked about a lack of surgical attire, Kline said “the point of covering up your head, your mouth, your hands and your street clothing when you’re in an operating room is so you don’t contaminate the patient.”
The appeals court decision noted Zeppa testified that reducing the hair around a horse’s laceration “is done … so that you can gain good access to inspecting the wound so you don’t miss any other small wounds that might be there.”
Pol, according to imdb.com, “takes an old-school, no-nonsense approach to veterinary medicine.”
The appeals court ruling indicates that when the administrative law judge ruled in Pol’s favor, the judge found the testimony of veterinarians Kline and Zeppa wasn’t as credible as testimony of Dr. James Havenga and Dr. Robert van Wessum, veterinarians whose testimony was more favorable to Pol.
In ordering Pol to serve a probationary period, LARA officials also directed him to pay all costs incurred in complying with terms of that order. LARA also required Pol to successfully complete continuing education “in the areas of small animal surgical preparation and monitoring, and small/large animal aseptic technique.”
In 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a state disciplinary action against Pol, ruling the state failed to establish a clear standard of care against which to evaluate Pol’s practices. That case arose from a complaint alleging Pol failed to wear a cap, mask or gown when performing eye surgery on a dog.
Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at [email protected].