In this interview, we talk to Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, Executive Director of SPCA, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. Following an important campaign "Teach With Kindness, #ChooseForceFree", which educates on the negative impact of aversive dog training and positive changes one can make - he reflects on the role of design in spreading awareness and making it a little easier to talk to a wider audience about tough topics.
MM: Could you share with us a bit about your organisation and the projects you usually require creative/design help with?
J: The SPCA is a registered animal welfare charity with IPC status. Relying mainly on donations from the public, the Society runs 24/7 emergency rescues, cruelty & welfare investigations, Singapore’s only community animal clinic, sterilisation and adoption programmes, an animal shelter, education outreach, and more.
We usually need creative help for large-scale campaigns — materials required include templates, graphics, and guidelines. Other ad hoc projects we may need help with, include prints and publicity efforts.
MM: What's your usual process looking for a creative/skilled volunteer?
J: We look for people who are passionate about helping the animals, and are able to understand SPCA as a brand. Creative solutions should also be manageable for a lean team with limited resources. As some projects take up quite an amount of time, we hope volunteers will be patient with the process.
MM: What was your main goal going into this campaign?
J: SPCA’s new initiative, Teach With Kindness #ChooseForceFree, aims to stamp out abusive practices used in training, raise the standards within the animal training industry, and provide support to pet guardians on animal training and behaviour. We are also renewing our call for the government to ban the electric shock collar as the device has no place in animal training.
MM: How was your experience working on this campaign?
J: This campaign was a particularly tough one, as aversive animal training methods are still used worldwide. Also, there were many factors to consider, such as whether the illustrations depicted the animals’ body language accurately, and if our campaign name could capture the gist of our goal. Overall, local brand consultancy Somewhere Else was extremely kind to offer pro bono help despite facing Covid-19 challenges and a tight deadline, and we could not have asked for more.
MM: How did the campaign do and what was the impact? It would be great if you could share with us some metrics. (e.g. How many signatures were collected, viewership, increase in adoption rates or petitions, etc.)
J: 15 signatures were collected from key organisations including Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Singapore Veterinary Association, and other animal shelters. Over 1,150 pledges were signed by pet caregivers in Singapore who have chosen humane animal training methods.
On our social media pages, our campaign posts reached over 117,489 users and our videos garnered 72,516 views. We also ran a harness exchange event, where 54 pet caregivers visited the SPCA to give up their aversive training tools for a harness — staff and trainers were present at the event to address their questions.
In line with this campaign, we also organised pet care and training webinars for World Animal Day 2020. Our webinars garnered over 2,383 live viewers.
MM: What did you learn or discover through this process, and what would your key takeaway be?
J: Campaigning for better regulations in the animal training industry is a difficult, long-term concern. Many trainers still choose to use archaic, forceful methods to train animals. However, we have learnt that many others support our force-free stand too. We are glad that our campaign was able to spark conversations among pet trainers, caregivers, and leading animal welfare organisations, and we will continue to move in this direction. We are currently working with the government to raise the standards in the dog training industry.
MM: What impact do you feel creative volunteers help bring to your organisation and the community?
J: Creative volunteers are able to convey our message to the public. By garnering such help, it gives people an opportunity to contribute to our animals using their unique skills. Additionally, it is heartwarming to see a variety of styles contributed by creatives, which helps us to view our work through fresh pairs of eyes.
MM: How else could Making Meaning help support you better?
J: By continuing to provide creative help that will get our campaign messages out to the public.
MM: What other kinds of content or resources would be useful for non-profits such as yourselves?
J: With everything going digital, IT help is important e.g. for better website design/function/security. To get our message out in a saturated media landscape, creative content creators can also suggest ways to enhance our publicity efforts. We are open to ideas!
To find out more about the campaign or sign the pledge, visit teachwithkindness.spca.org.sg. To learn more about SPCA and the work they do, visit spca.org.sg or follow their Instagram for the latest updates.