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SPCA boss: Don't call me an animal lover

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SPCA executive director details challenges in dealing with animal abuse

Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), has a pet peeve. He dislikes being called an animal lover.

"Do we say we need to be a child lover to advocate for the welfare of children, or an elderly lover to advocate for the welfare of the elderly?

"People who are termed 'non-animal lovers' may not want to join the advocacy; they may think why should they care. But I think, just like people, animal welfare should be everybody's concern," he said.

While the state of animal welfare in Singapore has improved, Dr Gill is focused on what more needs to be done to reduce cruelty cases rather than keep count of how many animals he and his team have saved.

The 37-year-old started his journey at the SPCA as an inspector investigating cruelty and complaints after he completed his life sciences degree at the National University of Singapore.

As an inspector, he saw animals in "extremely neglected states and then abandoned, terribly emaciated; some had skin or ear infections that went untreated".


The challenging part, he said, is not having evidence to prosecute the person responsible.

"Microchipping and the registration of dogs wasn't as tight as it is now, so (in the past) you could find an animal but you couldn't trace it to the owner. Also, CCTVs (closed-circuit television) to capture evidence were not as widely in operation as they are now."

The frustrating thing for Dr Gill is handling cases he cannot do anything about because the people involved are not breaking the law and would therefore refuse to listen to him.

"The problem of people mistreating animals is a complex issue," said Dr Gill.

"We have seen some cases of animal cruelty committed by individuals with mental health disorder. It is very difficult to try to understand the mind of someone who has abused an animal."

Though the SPCA sees a good adoption rate, it has had animals adopted returned to it.

There are people who adopt on impulse, then put the animals up for adoption after one year, or get them as "presents" and lose interest after a while, he said.

"While the team at the SPCA tries its best to inform them before and during the adoption process, this cannot compare with actually looking after an animal in their own home," said Dr Gill.

"We always stress that pets are for life, and one should not obtain a pet unless one can look after the animal till the end."

But thankfully, returns are in the minority. In fact, the SPCA has many adopters going back to share their heart-warming journeys with their pets, sometimes years after the adoption.

"This fills us with hope for the many lovely animals in our shelter waiting for their turn," said Dr Gill.

This article first appeared in Tabla and has been edited for length