I once referred briefly to Dr. Andrew Jones in a previous post as an example of one of the warning signs of quackery, the claim of secret knowledge that mainstream science and medicine doesn’t want you to have. Of course, his marketing activities include lots of other characteristic features of alternative medicine propaganda, including unfounded accusations about the harm done by conventional medicine and unproven or outright false claims about the safety and efficacy of alternative methods. In many ways, he is a fine example of many warning signs of quackery.
It turns out, the veterinary medical licensing authorities in Canada, where Dr. Jones lives, have more backbone than most of those in the U.S., and for years they have been warning Dr. Jones that unfairly denigrating his colleagues and making false claims is unprofessional and incompatible with the standards licensed veterinarians are expected to uphold. He repeatedly claimed he would abide by the marketing and advertising guidelines all other veterinarians are subject to in his jurisdiction, and repeated broke those commitments. Finally, the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association (BCVMA) imposed significant fines, and Dr. Jones has chosen to give up his license so he can market his veterinary self-help products without interference.
His supporters, of course, are trying to paint him as a victim, but the evidence is clear that he is yet another alternative guru with a messiah complex making money not only off peddling ineffective or unproven remedies but discouraging pet owners from seeking real medical care for their pets.
The details of the proceedings against Dr. Jones are included in the BCVMA reports available here:
BCVMA Investigating Committee Report
College of Veterinarians Council Final Decision
(note-these links are no longer working. For now, the ruling can be found here)
In 2003, 2004, and 2005, Dr. Jones was asked to stop using advertising language for his practice and products that implied he provided better care or was less concerned about money than other veterinarians. He advertised his own services as “affordable” and “superior” compared to other vets and said things like:
“You will find us honest, convenient, affordable, and above all caring”
“We use only the best materials and labs”
Some of this language was relatively innocuous, and his supporters have made a point of this to suggest that there is no real issue but competition and professional jealousy here. However, it should be obvious why advertising oneself as better than ones colleagues, especially with no evidence but that of one’s own ego to support such a claim, is both offensive and unprofessional. In any case, the only sanction imposed on Dr. Jones was to stop using such language, which he repeatedly agreed in writing to do. As we shall see, he not only broke these promises but engaged in far more egregiously inappropriate behavior.
Dr. Jones went on to form “Dr. Jones Inner Circle Forum,” a web-based service which charged pet owners a subscription fee to receive his “secret” knowledge and wisdom that he repeatedly claimed would make most visits to the veterinarian unnecessary. On this forum, he repeatedly accused conventional veterinarians of naked greed and a lack of interest in the well-being of their patients:
1) P.P.S My goal is to give you the most up to date, unbiased dog and cat health information to allow YOU to keep your pet in top health. I want you to be an empowered pet owner, and You will be one as part of my exclusive Dr. Andrew Jones’ Inner Circle. [I can’t help notice that hucksters and quacks have a great fondness for CAPITAL LETERS. I wonder why that is…]
2) At the end of the day it boils down to money. If the public are not lining vets pockets with unnecessary visits, purchasing processed foods from which vets also take a percentage, that’s quite a reduction in income.
3) I am “positive” that many ‘conventional” veterinarians think that Veterinary Secrets Revealed is a bunch of “hocus pocus” and should be shut down.
What does this mean?
It means that other veterinarians are upset about my website, ebook, and Complete Home Study Course.
After all, I’m showing people how to treat their own pets and save money on Vet bills [at least some of the money they save, of course, will go to Dr. Jones]
4) You should check out my Complete Home Study Multimedia Course. I guarantee that you will treat your pet’s illness and ailments confidently, competently and for less than it would cost if you relied exclusively on professional Veterinary services.
5) This issue: The 6th Secret – The 6th key to extending your pet’s life is knowing when to AVOID you Veterinarian.
In his posts on the Inner Circle forum, Dr. Jones repeatedly claimed alternative or “holistic” methods were safer and more effective than scientific medicine and that the only reason that conventional veterinarians object to them is that the “Secret Society of Veterinarians” was afraid they would lose money if people learned how to keep their pets healthy without professional medical care. When challenged for proof of his claims, Dr. Jones resorted to the time-worn and thoroughly meaningless arguments of longevity, popularity, and personal experience or anecdote:
‘There is no proof…’
But how do you think that most animals in the world are treated? It’s with natural medicine…
Most people in India or China can’t afford to even see a vet or buy medication.
They use herbs, acupressure, massage, supplements, homeopathic treatments.
The animals get better, because the treatments work.
I have seen thousands of pets recover with home remedies.
That is proof.
As if we are seriously expected to believe that the cats and dogs in the third world who do not have access to real veterinary care are healthier than the pets in the developed world. Just like the people who are too poor to have access to science-based medicine are healthier than those of us in the developed world, despite the minor problems of high infant mortality, low life-expectancy, and rampant infectious and parasitic diseases most of us have never seen, I suppose? Arrant nonsense.
The list of absurd, untrue, and unprofessional accusations and claims, all made in an effort to sell books, videos, and subscriptions to the “secrets” of his “Inner Circle,” is extensive. Here are just a few examples:
1) I firmly believe in holistic medicine for pets.
We are killing them with the most of the terrible dog foods on the market along with pesticides contained in flea and tick medications and also medicines the vets want you to purchase. [a letter supposedly from a reader that Dr. Jones reprinted because it reflected his views]
2) “…you should be leery of any LARGE pet food manufacturer- they re[sic] in the business to profit first”
3) HERBAL THERAPY. A number of herbs are used in diabetes. These include Gymnema, Bitter Melon, Fenugreek, and Ginseng. These herbs can be found in specific diabetic herbal combinations. Ginseng is the most effective of these herbs. It has been shown to lower blood sugar in people, and is believed to do the same in animals. The dose is 30 mg per lb of body weight twice daily of the dried herb, or 1 drop per pound of body weight twice daily of the tincture.[implying people can treat their pet’s diabetes alone, with unproven herbal remedies, is especially egregious because it will undoubtedly lead to suffering and death for animals with this serious disease who are not properly treated]
4) Pay Close Attention – today, I’m going to show you why conventional veterinary medicine is harming your pet and step-by-step what you must do to prevent it.
“Regular” veterinary care has lost it’s [sic] effectiveness over the years, and in some cases is causing illness in our pets.
5) The entire Pet Health Industry has a vested interest in discrediting alternative medicines which can safely, naturally and effectively allow pet owners to care for thei pets at home. [a nice example of the conspiracy-theory aspect of quackery]
6) Most veterinarians just choose to ignore the research because either they still feel the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks, or that they don’t want to lose income from giving booster shots to all those animals each year.
Apart from such false and unproven accusations and claims, Dr. Jones engaged in inappropriate hucksterism, offering “money-back guarantees” and “cures” when such claims can never be anything but lies in medicine.
Despite all of this, the licensing board did not intend to drive Dr. Jones out of practice. He was fined substantially, both for the numerous violations of ethics laws and, even more importantly, for acknowledging in writing that he understood and intended to abide by them and then reneging on these promises in order to continue to profit from unethical and deceitful advertising. However, when he offered to give up his license, the board specifically indicated it did not consider this an appropriate or necessary punishment for the violations. Dr. Jones decision to give up his license is entirely his own.
Unfortunately, it is likely he will continue to profit from spreading lies and misinformation about the veterinary profession, and from offering dangerous advice and unproven or false treatments. He will have to walk a fine line since without a license he cannot legally practice veterinary medicine, but of course the benefits of a free society are great enough that he must be allowed to spout his nonsense as long as he does not cross the line into liable, slander, or the practice of medicine. Sadly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ends up in the U.S. where regulatory authorities have proven far less willing to challenge such snake oil salesman taking advantage of pet owners and profiting from fear and ignorance.