Dr Jaipal Singh Gill’s last message as SPCA’s Executive Director

By Admin | News

Jan 05

Note: The following message was originally published in SPCA Singapore Annual Report 2021. It is reposted here for your interest.

Our animal welfare services persevered through another challenging year. A huge thanks goes to our staff and volunteers on the ground who ensured we were there for the animals who needed us. These frontliners continued to travel the distance to work and took on the additional risk of interacting with the public when needed. Most of their work goes on quietly behind the scenes, but we acknowledge and appreciate that none of SPCA’s animal welfare work would be possible without them. The stories and cases you will read in this report are just a small fraction of what they do day in and day out. Their work has never been easy and has only become more difficult in the present pandemic. Our people are true champions for the animals.

1,832 emergency animal rescue cases were attended to during the financial year and 451 animal cruelty and welfare cases investigated. Our clinic saw over 200 animals a month and performed 1,856 surgeries. 794 animals were adopted, though this was lower than last year’s 904. We are still operating on an appointment based system for adoptions and while this has caused some inconvenience to potential adopters, it is necessary to keep our staff, volunteers and visitors safe. We will relax the measures when the national situation improves.

In the past year, our teams have been kept very busy as the SPCA took in 2,389 animals, providing them with shelter and loving care. This is our highest intake since we moved to Sungei Tengah in 2016, although the figure has increased because we are actively trapping and bringing in street dogs for the trap-neuter-release-manage (TNRM) programme.

Of course every shelter aims to have their numbers decrease and for there to be less homeless, unwanted and abused animals. As the TNRM programme launched in November 2018 continues its steady progress, and as we ramp up cat sterilisations, we expect to see the number of animals requiring shelter to decline in the mid to long term.

As always, education remains a key part of what we do. While we are not able to conduct in-person talks or events presently, we are continuing our education and outreach efforts in the virtual space, running talks and events online. Our World Animal Day webinar series in October 2020 covering various pet care topics was very popular and we have expanded the scope of talks for the 2021 series. We also plan to start holding in-person dog training classes at the SPCA soon.

Earlier this year, we organized an animal welfare symposium for youth, with the aims of raising awareness of various issues, promoting discussion and to inspire action. 14 speakers and panelists from eight organisations spoke on topics such as humane animal population management, animal cruelty, why wild animals do not make good pets, how to lead a cruelty-free lifestyle and fish sentience and welfare. We also launched a grant programme, inviting anyone with ideas on how to improve animal welfare to apply.

We have been active on the advocacy front as well. Together with Cat Welfare Society (CWS), we have been working on a comprehensive review of cat-related laws and policies, and with Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), we have been working on the welfare of animals used for food and on pigeon welfare.

We launched a ‘Teach with Kindness’ initiative to address the serious cruelty that still exists within the dog training industry, renewing our call to ban the electric shock collar and to promote humane training methods.

The SPCA additionally, spoke up on many issues, including a renewed appeal to impose up to lifetime bans from keeping pets or being involved in animal related businesses for those convicted of serious cruelty, and asking for stronger sentences in these cases.

Euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals has always been a dreaded burden, but SPCA was left with no choice but to do this in decades past, as there was a massive pet and street animal overpopulation and these animals had nowhere else to go, being turned away from many other places. The SPCA took them in, and many were euthanased as the demand for adoption was low, space was limited, and uncontrolled breeding of cats and dogs on the streets continued. It would have been very easy for the SPCA to turn away these animals, pushing the problem elsewhere and washing its hands of the problem, but this would not have been the right thing to do.

For many years, the SPCA not only accepted this horrible responsibility, but worked very hard to address the overpopulation so that the number of homeless and unwanted animals would reduce. In the present day, euthanasia is only considered for animals with serious medical conditions, and in very rare cases those that are unable to be rehomed due to repeated and severe aggression towards humans despite rehabilitation efforts.

Euthanasia is not a decision that is made lightly and the team at SPCA work tirelessly to treat, rehabilitate and save as many animals as we can.

I thank the staff and volunteers who came before us, and who worked for decades to solve the overpopulation problems at its roots. And those in the present day who have been continuing these efforts. Some of this work involved sterilisation programmes, campaigns to promote adoption, education programmes and lobbying the government to change policies and approaches. These pioneer efforts by the SPCA, and others involved in animal welfare in Singapore, have been paying off.

Looking ahead, we will continue our efforts to further reduce the unwanted pet population and provide assistance to those caring for animals and in need of help. We will also strengthen our education and outreach efforts to raise standards of animal welfare overall and to also prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Our policy advocacy work will continue in a number of areas, for example companion and community animals, and animals used for food, so that structural and long term change can be realised.

This is my last message to you as executive director. I will be stepping down at the end of 2021 as I will be moving overseas for a period. The animal protection cause and SPCA’s work remain very close to my heart and I will continue supporting the organisation in any way I can, including as a volunteer. Knowing that we have a very passionate and dedicated team of staff and volunteers, and a strong supporter base, I leave with a lot of optimism for the future of animal welfare in Singapore and the SPCA. There is still much to be done and I am confident the incoming executive director and team, working together with all stakeholders, will make significant progress for the animals in the years to come.

I would like to thank everyone in the SPCA family who has supported me and my team these past six years while I was executive director. Thank you to all members, donors, supporters, volunteers and management committee members – it is all of you who make this work possible. I wish you the very best and I hope our paths cross again in the future.

You can access the rest of SPCA Singapore Annual Report 2021 here.