An Adelaide veterinary surgeon has been fined and reprimanded for a series of inappropriate acts involving animals – but has not been banned from practising.

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Dr Marcus Wei Sheng Tan will instead be allowed to practice with “indirect supervision”.

He faced disciplinary action in the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT), which found Dr Tan engaged in unprofessional conduct on four grounds after the Registrar of the Veterinary Surgeons Board of SA raised a complaint.

Dr Tan has found to have inappropriately touched animals in his care – including a Labrador Retriever owned by the Royal Society for the Blind — between August 2019 and September 2020.

He also admitted to other inappropriate contact with animals, the nature of which is so confronting the ABC has chosen not to publish the details.

Two further allegations involving the euthanasia of a sick puppy and a further incident of inappropriate touching were not found to be proved.

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

In the decision, which the tribunal made public this week after a hearing in December, Dr Tan’s conduct was found to amount to “unprofessional conduct”.

The tribunal found there was “proper cause for disciplinary action against the respondent”.

Dr Tan was fined $5,000 and had conditions placed on his registration, including that he was restricted to providing veterinary treatment only when he was employed by an approved practice and under the indirect supervision and mentorship of people approved by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of SA.

The conditions also include that the supervisor and mentor convene an in-person meeting with Dr Tan at least once every two months to provide guidance and feedback as well as provide six-monthly reports to the board.

The conditions will remain in place continuously for five years and cannot be removed until Dr Tan is assessed by a psychiatrist and approved by the board as “being medically fit to resume practice as an unrestricted veterinary surgeon”.

‘No valid medical reason’

The tribunal’s findings note that some of Dr Tan’s former colleagues had described feeling “uncomfortable” about the way he interacted with animals.

In a report provided to the tribunal, a veterinary surgeon who was called to give evidence told the court some of the Dr Tan’s behaviours “had no valid medical reason”, were “markedly abnormal” and a “serious breach of the standards of behaviour expected of veterinarians”.

“Such actions would be viewed as violating the patient and breaking the veterinarian client trust,” the vet said.

“Such actions would also be viewed by other veterinarians and nurses observing them to not be normal behaviour for a veterinarian and they would be repulsed by such actions.”

Dr Tan, who was born in Singapore and studied in Australia for six years before first working in veterinary practice in 2019, denied having any sexual attraction towards animals.

During the hearings, a petition signed by 17 people in the veterinary industry was provided to the tribunal.

Dr Tan was found to have inappropriately touched animals in his care.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Landau)

The tribunal noted that the petition suggested Dr Tan had “displayed behaviour which is unprofessional, inappropriate, unethical and damaging” to the veterinary community.

The petition also suggested Dr Tan had been witnessed performing inappropriate acts with animals and that they believed he should “immediately be deregistered as this behaviour goes against basic animal welfare”.

The tribunal noted many of the signatories were also called to give evidence before the tribunal, which Dr Tan had suggested was evidence of collusion. The tribunal did not find evidence of collusion but said it made findings on the basis of the complaint only.

The restrictions imposed on Dr Tan began on January 31, 2024. He was also ordered to pay the registrar’s legal costs of $27,000.