Controversial Reality TV Veterinarians Do Nothing to Help the Profession
Another day, another veterinarian reality TV show. I don’t know why Animal Planet loves Denver so much, but their latest reality offering, “Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet,” premieres on Saturday, and a bunch of us are already cringing at how this one is going to play out.
Dr. Jeff is a veterinarian in the Denver area who runs a low-cost spay/neuter practice. I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t write it off without giving it a chance, but the fact that he was chosen for being a self-described “controversial pariah” doesn’t bode well. As far as I can gather, he’s so far managed to offend the following groups:
- owners who dress up their animals and refer to them as family
- veterinarians who try and make a livable wage
Although I’m trying to keep an open mind, the Dr. Jeff show is brought to us by the same media company who brings us “Hippo Hunters,” as well as “Fat Girls and Feeders,” so I admit I don’t have the highest of hopes.
It’s not what he does that worries me; it’s what he says, which is of course why they cast him, I’m sure. I’m all for spay/neuter, all for veterinarians who choose to dedicate their careers to doing low cost services, but I’m also all for veterinarians who choose to dedicate their lives to providing cutting edge medicine to those who want it. It’s not an either/or thing.
Rather than call veterinarians who are trying to improve the quality of care for veterinary patients money-hungry, I prefer to thank them for moving us past the days where we immobilized reptiles for surgery by sticking them in the freezer and considered pets writhing in pain post-surgery as “nice and awake.” While I agree that not every pet and client can or should pursue costly high-tech procedures for every ailment, the options are there, and that is not a bad thing.
It’s the same stuff that pops up with shows like Dr. Pol. Controversy drives ratings, and every time a person protests about a questionable action on camera, tons more fans come out of the woodwork to defend him. The more people are fighting, the more people are paying attention, and that drives more people to the show, so I anticipate this new show will be just as migraine-inducing.
Controversy and fist-waving does nothing, however, to drive amicable conversations about the thorny issues that won’t be resolved without a little more finesse: access to care, finances, the balance between resources, and expensive medical care. A measured discussion with no yelling about those issues, while helpful, would be much less entertaining, so it won’t be on TV.
I guess what I’m getting at here is just a reminder, on the dawn of this new show, to please look at it less like a documentary and more like what it really is: a highly produced piece of entertainment.
While this new star may be very fun to watch, by the nature of the beast he’s probably also going to be just off his rocker enough to get people worked up, for better or for worse. At the end of the day it will likely bear as much resemblance to real-life veterinary medicine as “Survivor” does to summer camp.
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang