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EXCLUSIVE: VA Dog Experimenter Who Botched Surgeries Received Big Bonuses, Major Salary Increase

VA dog experimenter Alex Tan received big bonuses and a salary increase even after reports emerged that he had botched numerous dog surgeries and was banned from various animal experiments.

A Freedom of Information Act request from the White Coat Waste Project, a group dedicated to fighting waste in animal experimentation, reveals that Tan, a cardiologist, received a $15,000 performance bonus in 2016, which was the same year he was banned from animal experimentation protocols for repeated abuses. He also received another bonus in 2017.

His total salary in 2015 was $309,332. This increased to $310,365 in 2016. His salary in 2017 was $340,000 — well after reports of abuses and being banned.

Internal VA reports indicate that Tan botched dog surgeries so badly he was eventually banned from experimenting on dogs. In one case, back in December 2015, he caused a dog to overdose on a sedative. By the time he left work, the dog was not recovering from surgery and unresponsive. Tan’s technician came in the next day and found the dog in major pain and accidentally delivered the wrong drug to ease the suffering.

In another case in March 2016, Tan severed a dog’s cardiac nerves. The dog quickly deteriorated in health and died. Tan performed the same operation on yet another dog and botched it in the same way. That dog, too, died.

At a surgery in October 2016, Tan accidentally sliced into a dog’s lung while trying get to its heart. The dog suffered from hypoxia and died.

And yet, during this time period, Tan continued to collect bonuses and also received a salary increase.

The Office of Research Oversight at the VA determined May 30 that there were oversight failures and evidence of abuse at the Hunter Holmes McGuire medical center, which is where the experiments were taking place.

In response, the VA defended Tan’s bonuses and other compensation and said he was banned from working with animals.

“Dr. Tan is no longer permitted to work with animals,” VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “His pay reflects his value to the VA as a respected cardiologist treating Veterans at the Richmond VAMC, a job he performs extraordinarily well.”

“By contrast, White Coat Waste is a radical group that puts animal rights extremism ahead of Veterans’ health,” Cashour added. “VA’s canine research program has the support of major Veterans groups, including Paralyzed Veterans of America, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans because it creates the potential for life-changing medical breakthroughs for seriously disabled Veterans.”

Dr. Michael Fallon, who serves as chief veterinary medical officer at the VA, also emphasized the importance of animal research, and called White Coat Waste an extremist group.

“VA animal research has saved lives in the past and it will do so in the future, unless extremist groups like White Coat Waste succeed in shutting it down,” Fallon said.

However, other veterans’ groups have taken the opposite approach and called for an end to animal experimentation at the VA.

VetsFirst, American Military Retirees Association and The Retired Enlisted Association have signed a letter to Democratic Rep. Dina Titus and GOP Rep. Dave Brat, expressing support for their efforts to end animal experiments at the VA. Titus and Brat introduced a bill called the PUPPERS Act in July to block the VA from engaging in any research on dogs that causes “significant pain or distress.”

The debate over animal experimentation at the VA has continued for months, though the PUPPERS Act is currently stalled. The controversy became intense enough in September to prompt VA Secretary David Shulkin to write an op-ed in USA Today, arguing for the importance of animal research and stating that banning such research would harm disabled veterans.

Tan did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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