Singapore-born veterinary surgeon fined and sanctioned for sex acts with animals in Australia

To practise veterinary medicine in the city state, one has to apply for and obtain a veterinary licence from the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) under the National Parks Board.

During the hearings in Australia on his case, Tan had denied having any sexual attraction towards animals but admitted to improper conduct.

Between August 2019 and September 2020, he was found to have inappropriately touched several animals in his care. This includes a Labrador retriever owned by the Royal Society for the Blind in South Australia.

The Australian broadcaster found his other acts too explicit to publish.

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At the time of the offences, he was practising in the field of animal reproduction, including artificial insemination.

In the findings of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal released last month, it was noted that some of his former colleagues had described feeling “uncomfortable” about the way he interacted with animals.

One veterinary surgeon said at a hearing that there was “no valid medical reason” for what Tan did in some instances, adding that his behaviour was “markedly abnormal” and a “serious breach of the standards of behaviour expected of veterinarians”.

Tan was investigated after the Registrar of the Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia raised a complaint against him.

During the hearings with the tribunal, a petition signed by 17 people in the veterinary industry was submitted, where people told of witnessing Tan performing inappropriate acts with animals and that the behaviour “goes against basic animal welfare”.

Following hearings in December last year, the tribunal found that Tan had engaged in “unprofessional conduct” and that there was “proper cause for disciplinary action against the respondent”.

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To continue practising as a vet, Tan has to provide veterinary treatment only when employed by an approved practice, and under the indirect supervision and mentorship of people approved by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia.

He must also meet in person with the supervisor and mentor at least once every two months. They will provide guidance, feedback and six-monthly reports to the board, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

These sanctions, which took effect from January 31, will remain in place for five years.

They cannot be removed until he is assessed by a psychiatrist and approved by the board as “being medically fit to resume practice as an unrestricted veterinary surgeon”, the news report stated.

Tan was also ordered to pay the registrar’s legal costs of A$27,000.

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In reply to TODAY’s queries on whether AVS would take this incident into consideration if Tan should ever apply to obtain a veterinary licence in Singapore in future, Jessica Kwok, its group director for the industry standards and regulatory division, said on Thursday that all applicants would be subjected to a “thorough and independent” review process.

The applicant’s conduct and adherence to the AVS’ regulatory standards would be evaluated.

“The process considers all relevant factors such as the verification of a recognised degree in veterinary medicine, a letter of endorsement from a veterinary practice in Singapore, or a letter of good standing from the veterinary licensing authority in the applicant’s last country of residence and practice,” Kwok added.

Licensed vets will be required to comply with the code of ethics for veterinarians, which sets out the expected professional standards of conduct of veterinarians.

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