Vet Saves Dog's Life, Family is Happy – State Sanctions Him

The problem with occupational licensing

Dr. Jan Pol (photo via NatGeo Channel)

A vet safely saves a dog’s life and the owners are happy, but he is punished with a fine and probation and could have lost his state license. Why? Because a state board — filled with his competitors — and a state department have that authority.

This case involved Dr. Jan Pol, a veterinarian near Mt. Pleasant. As Michigan Capitol Confidential reports, five years ago, Pol performed an operation that was shown on his program on the Nat Geo Channel. The dog, Mr. Pigglesworth, was saved from being euthanized for under $300. But an out-of-state vet complained to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which punished him, “cit[ing] his failure to wear surgical gear (mask, gown, gloves) and to provide the patient with IV therapy. The bureau also faulted Pol for not placing a warming pad or blanket in the dog’s kennel during his recovery.”

The Michigan Court of Appeals overruled the decision. “As we said in the beginning, this case is curious. A dog’s life is saved, yet the veterinarian faces sanctions,” the court said.

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What if we applied that same standard to all licensed professions? A building was painted, yet the painter faces sanctions. Hair was cut, yet the barber gets fined. Gutters were installed, yet the workers have their livelihood taken away.

This can only happen because each of the areas above, and hundreds more in Michigan, are subject to state licensing. This means workers have to meet certain educational requirements, pass certain tests, and pay extra fees to work. Most of the time, there is little reason for it.

Note that even without government licensing, the state can set health and safety rules. We require our restaurants to be clean and provide safe food – but Michigan does not mandate every cook to have a license. This is how it should be for most occupations.

What matters are the actual results of an action – not arbitrary state-mandated rules and requirements. If workers can safely and effectively provide a service and customers are happy, why should a licensing board or state department get in the way?

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