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Our Story

The Hamilton/Burlington SPCA (HBSPCA) is committed to thriving animals, thriving pet families and thriving communities.

Founded in 1887, our mission was animal protection and our focus was working animals. Today, and guided by the human animal bond, the Society strives to keep people and pets together, help community members be the pet parents they want to be and be a voice for sentient beings who have none.

Community programs support animals and their people: pet visits with students living away from home, children and youth with special needs and seniors; affordable spay/ neuter services for families with least access to services; veterinary care for pets belonging to our most vulnerable citizens; ambulatory care for cats to keep them at home; and health checks for at risk pets belonging to hospitalized senior citizens are but some of the ways.


The HBSPCA Companion Animal Hospital (CAH) is in its 11th year. The on site hospital provides affordable spay/neuter services for more than 3500 owned pets every year. It supports a continuum of care for animals at the shelter and in foster care, just in time care for emergency and urgent cases, and end of life support for pet families who have no other option. The CAH is a learning site for veterinarians in training at the Ontario Veterinary College and co-op students exploring animal welfare career paths.

HBSPCA service to community advances a humane community every day. It takes a village to make a difference. Consider joining with our donors, supporters, partners and volunteers who make it all possible.

Our Charitable Registration Number: 11923 6750 RR0001


Our Mandate

The Hamilton/Burlington SPCA is an animal welfare charity. The HBSPCA protects animals from people, cares for animals in its companion animal hospital, kennels and foster homes and promotes responsible pet ownership.

Our Vision

A community where all animals have the opportunity to enjoy the five essential freedoms:

  • freedom from hunger and thirst
  • freedom from pain, injury and disease
  • freedom from distress
  • freedom from discomfort
  • freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being
Staff member holding kitten

Our Mission

  • Support access to services which help sustain healthy, safe and wanted animals in our community
  • Protect animals from harm or potential harm
  • Deliver best practice animal care so they may live their natural life in good health
  • Lead the development of a more humane community and more responsible pet ownership through programs, education, and collaboration

Our Values

  • We are Curious: we strive to be a leader by actively seeking out evidence-based best practices.
  • We are Collaborative: we partner with individuals and organizations.
  • We act with Integrity: we act from an ethical framework.
  • We act with Respect: we treat animals and people with dignity.
  • We are Compassionate: we are caring, empathetic and understanding.
  • We practice Stewardship: we are caretakers of animal welfare, and of the reputation and resources of the HBSPCA.
  • We are Transparent: we are open and honest about what we do, how we do it, and the challenges we face.
  • We are Accountable: we are responsible for our actions.

Proud Member of:

Hamilton chamber of commerce

Humane Canada



About the HBSPCA

Can I bring my animal to the HBSPCA Companion Animal Hospital for veterinary care?
The HBSPCA Companion Animal Hospital is not open to the public, except for our Community Assistance Spay/Neuter program. Information on the spay/neuter program, including the application form, is available here.
If I surrender my pet to the HBSPCA, can you guarantee that my pet will be adopted?

Provided your pet doesn’t pose any severe risk to humans or other animals, it will remain at the HBSPCA until we find it a loving home. Unfortunately, however, we can’t guarantee that your pet won’t develop serious behavioural or medical issues after being surrendered. To allow us to place your pet in a suitable home, it’s extremely important that you disclose all information about your animal’s health, behaviour and history when you surrender it to us. Rest assured that we work very hard with other shelters to place pets with difficult issues before making any decisions regarding euthanasia.

Where do your animals come from?

We help animals that have become homeless for any number of reasons. Some animals are surrendered to us by their owners. We also accept animals from City of Hamilton Animal Services when they have completed their 72-hour stray period, provided they’re suitable for adoption based on our medical and behavioural tests. From time to time, we also assist other local shelters by taking their animals.

Is the website current with all the available animals?

Cats, dogs and small animals are automatically placed on the HBSPCA website when they are available and removed from the website when they’ve been adopted.

Does the HBSPCA euthanize animals?

The HBSPCA never euthanizes an animal because the shelter is overcrowded. All adoptable animals are available until they are adopted—there is no time limit. However, the HBSPCA does euthanize animals that pose a severe risk to humans or other animals and those that have an untreatable disease or are suffering significant pain or distress.

I found a stray dog or cat. Can the HBSPCA help?

The HBSPCA legally cannot accept stray animals. Please contact your local municipality’s animal services—in the Hamilton area, call 905-574-3433.

How should I prepare in the event that my pet goes missing?

Your cat or dog should always have external identification. Microchips and tattoos are helpful forms of identification but they don’t replace a tag or other form of external ID. Keep a detailed description of your pet on hand, as well as current colour photographs of the animal and any identifying characteristics (i.e. unusual markings). Finally, ensure your pet is up-to-date on all vaccinations, which will help keep your pet healthy should it go missing.

Please read through this document for more comprehensive tips on what to do if your pet goes missing

My pet was lost but just came home. What should I do now?

First, make an appointment with your pet’s vet for a check up. The vet can also implant a microchip in your pet to help identify it if it’s lost again. Check that you have adequate external identification on your pet, such as a tag with a phone number, and colour photos and a description on hand in case your pet goes missing again. Notify any places you contacted while looking for your pet that your pet has been located and remove any posters you put up in the community. Finally, take steps to prevent your pet from getting lost again—keep your dog on a leash at all times when outside and consider keeping your cat indoors.

I lost my dog or cat, can the HBSPCA help?

If you have lost your pet, the following steps may help bring you back together:

  1. First, contact your city’s Animal Control department. In the Hamilton area, call 905-574-3433. In Burlington, call 905-335-3030. In Hamilton, dogs and cats will stay at Animal Services for 72 hours in the hopes that someone will claim them. Following the 72-hour period, adoptable animals become the property of the HBSPCA, are medically treated and made available to the public for adoption.
  2. Search your neighborhood. Ask your neighbours, mail carriers, joggers, garbage collectors, and others in the area to watch out for your pet. Kids in the neighbourhood can be an excellent source of information. Check out this useful website as well.
  3. Visit animal shelters and the pound. Go in person, rather than phoning. Visit the shelters every 24 hours. If you don’t have a shelter or pound in your area, phone the local police detachment.
  4. Try the power of scent. Animals have a keen sense of smell and familiar smells may help bring them home. Place a piece of clothing you’ve worn or a blanket outside your door. For indoor cats, place their litter box outside.
  5. Post eye-catching posters in the neighbourhood. Describe your pet in detail and include a picture, the date and location of where your pet was lost and a phone number where you can be reached. Be sure to mention any unique markings and the colour of your pet’s collar. Consider offering a nominal reward. Withhold one of your pet’s unique characteristics so you can verify the honesty of a caller who is claiming to have found your pet.
  6. Place an ad in your local newspaper.
  7. Try the Internet. PetLynx and Kijiji are valuable resources—you can search the listings to see if someone has found your pet and post a lost pet notice yourself. Before you post on either of these websites, contact your local animal control to ensure your pet isn’t there already.
  8. Check local animal hospitals and local vet clinics.
  9. Continue your search even if you feel there is little hope. Some animals turn up after having been lost for months.
I have a pet that I can no longer care for. Can I bring it to the HBSPCA?

The HBSPCA does take in surrenders of owned animals that are adoptable if space is available in the shelter. An appointment must be arranged for a mandatory medical and behavioural assessment to be completed. There is a fee to surrender an animal to the HBSPCA depending the type of animal and its history. Please be advised that you may be placed on a waiting list if space is not available when you contact us.

Cat Behaviour & Training

How can I make sure kids are safe around my cat?

Introducing your cat to children is best done slowly and under constant supervision. Have the child sit calmly and quietly on the ground and allow the cat to sniff him before the child pets the cat. Moving too quickly will spook the cat. Once the cat appears comfortable and ready for attention, allow the child to gently pet the cat. Make sure the child doesn’t pull on the cat’s ears or tail or attempt to pick the cat up. These initial interactions should always happen on the ground. Most bites and scratches will happen when the child tries to pick up the cat or carries the cat around. Once the two are comfortable around each other, you can teach the child how to pick up the cat properly and again, always under adult supervision. Remember, start out slow and have patience and you’ll create a life-long friendship.

I want to get a second cat. How can I make sure my cats will get along?

Introducing a second cat into your home takes time and they will likely not be friends right away. It can take weeks or even months for cats to begin to tolerate each other. By setting your cats up for success, you can shorten this adjustment time and create a harmonious multi-cat home.

When you bring your new cat home, place him or her in a separate room with a door. This will help the cats start out slow and investigate each other’s smells from afar. Let your first cat sniff the cat carrier that you brought the second cat home in. Switch items used by the cats (blankets, toys, etc.). After a few days, confine your first cat to a room and let the new cat out to explore the house. For the first few days, don’t let the cats interact face-to-face. This will help prevent a fight.

After a few days, allow the cats to meet face-to-face. Do this in a large, open area where the cats will have lots of room, like your living room. Don’t force the cats to interact. If they ignore each other, this is a good thing. Hissing, batting and growling at each other is normal. If the cats flick their tails and lay their ears laid back, these are signs a fight may be imminent. Never break up a fight with your hands or legs as you’re sure to be bitten or scratched. Instead, make a loud noise or toss something near them to distract them. A spray bottle filled with water will also work.

Introducing a second cat to your home takes time and a few fights along the way is normal. Patience is the key.

My cat likes to play rough and I don’t like it.

You may notice that your cat or kitten likes to play a bit rough at times. This may be fun for you at first, but sometimes they can go too far! With cats, anything that can be chased, batted or bitten is fair game—including your ankles! Having consistent play times using toys every day can teach your cat that he or she doesn’t have to initiate play time and will help your cat distinguish between toys and body parts, household decorations and other items that aren’t playthings.

Withdrawing your attention when play goes too far can also help—cats will quickly learn that rough play isn’t acceptable. Simply leave the room without saying anything. Don’t pick up the cat, talk to her or give any form of attention that could be interpreted by the cat as a reward. Touching, pushing the cat away or removing the cat may actually escalate the situation. Scruffing (picking up the cat by the scruff of its neck) or yelling can quickly transform the play into real aggression.

Consistency is key. It will confuse your cat if sometimes ankles, fingers or pant legs are playthings and other times they’re not. And remember, everyone in your house must be consistent in order for your training to be effective.

My cat is having accidents in my house. What should I do?

If your cat is having accidents in the house, it’s recommended that you pay a visit to your vet to rule out any medical problems. If your cat is healthy, most likely you’re dealing with a behaviour issue—get ready to experiment with different scenarios to find out what’s preventing your cat from using the box. Consider where your box is located. Is there a scary noise nearby? Cats have more sensitive hearing than humans so the noise may not seem frightening to you but it may be enough to spook a cat. Is it on a hard, cold surface? Is it in a spot that your cat frequents anyway? Is it near a strong smell? Remember what smells good to you may offend your feline. Spaying or neutering your cat can help with “accidents,” especially if your cat is spraying. Spaying and neutering also has many health benefits for cats and will help your cat become more balanced and calm.

Should I use a liner in my litter box?

Having litter liners in your cat’s litter box makes cleaning much easier but some cats don’t like liners and will refuse to use the box.

How often should I clean my cat’s litter box?

Your cat’s litter box should be scooped daily. How often you need to clean out the litter box depends on the type of litter box you use and how many cats you have. Provided you scoop daily, twice per week may be enough with clay litter and two to three weeks with scoopable litter—but if you notice an odour or that the litter is wet, you may need to change it more frequently. Cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans so avoid using harsh chemicals or strong-scented cleaners on the litter box—they may cause your cat to do its business elsewhere. Washing with soap and water is usually sufficient. Bleach can be used but be sure to rinse the box thoroughly.

What’s better, a covered or uncovered litter box?

Some people may have a preference one way or the other, but it is important to consider what your cat likes best. A covered litter box needs to be cleaned more frequently as it will easily trap odours. A covered box may also be too small for your cat to turn around, dig and get into position. If the box has a door this may be scary to some cats or difficult for them to figure out.

How many litter boxes should I have in my house?

It’s recommended that you have at least one litter box in your house for every cat you have. Multi-cat households should have at least one litter box on each floor to prevent line-ups at the bathroom. It’s very important to keep the litter boxes clean when you have multiple cats, since some cats may refuse to use a litter box that another cat has already used.

My cat is using my plants as a washroom. What should I do?

Try mixing some soil into your litter box. Gradually lessen the amount of soil used until it’s all litter. Soil by itself isn’t a good substitute for litter because it’s messy and not absorbent.

What type of litter should I use?

Litter preference is unique to each individual cat but, in general, cats tend to prefer fine grain litter such as a clumping litter or high quality clay litter. Unscented litter is best, but don’t try to solve smell issues by putting an air freshener close to the litter box. Your cat may find the smell unappealing and find another spot to do its business. To help absorb odour, try sprinkling a thin layer of baking soda in the bottom of the box before putting in the litter. This will keep you and your kitty happy. Once you find the litter that works for your cat, avoid switching brands.

Where should I put my cat’s litter box?

You’ve provided your cat with a litter box, but that’s not always enough to get your fine feline to use the facilities. Here’s why. From a human’s perspective, a litter box is something to be hidden away, usually on a cold, stone basement floor near an appliance. But think like your cat for a moment. How appealing is a cold floor? What sounds come from the appliance? Are the stairs steep or hard to navigate for a kitten or older cat? Find a place for the litter box that fits everyone’s needs and you’ll find fewer unhappy surprises in your house.

I’m travelling with my cat. How should I put her in the car?

Your cat’s safety should be your first priority in the car. Cat behavior can change dramatically when they are afraid or put in new situations, causing them to bite, scratch or flee, so cats should always be in a carrier while travelling in the car. A carrier will make the cat feel more comfortable in the new situation and help keep your attention on the road. Should you get in an accident, the carrier will also help protect your cat from becoming airborne if the carrier is anchored by a seatbelt.

Should I let my cat go outside?

On a sunny, warm day, it seems like a great idea to let your cat outside to play. But actually, there are many life-threatening dangers outside for cats, such as cars, coyotes and even other cats. In reality, cats don’t need to go outside and are perfectly happy staying indoors. If you must take your cat outside, train it to walk on a harness with you. Cats that are tied up outside are defenseless against attacks—make sure you’re supervising your cat at all times.

Dog Behaviour & Training

My dog goes crazy when we have people over for parties. How can I control him?

Parties can obviously be over-stimulating and overwhelming for dogs—so many new people to meet and so much food! Unless you spend a lot of time training for this type of situation, it is unfair to expect your dog to be calm and well behaved.

How can I keep my dog safe and comfortable in the car?

Dogs should always be confined to a crate or restrained by a seatbelt while in the car. If they’re not restrained, dogs can easily become a distraction for the driver. In the event of an accident, your dog can become airborne which could cause serious injuries or death to you or your pet. Human seatbelts won’t work for dogs. Instead, purchase a seat belt specifically manufactured for dogs at a pet store—these belts adapt your car’s seat belts for safe use with your dog.

My dog is shy. What should I do?

When dogs are young, it’s important to socialize them whenever you have the opportunity. It helps to use food and treats during this process. Carry treats with you wherever you go so the people you meet can give them to your dog. Introduce your dog to a diverse array of people: tall, short, big, small, different races, men, women, children, wearing hats, using a cane, etc. Do not force your pup to become friends with people it’s scared of. If your dog is wiggly and excited, have the person greet them. If he is nervous or scared, have them toss the treat on the ground and keep walking. Forcing a dog to interact with someone or coddling a fearful dog will only encourage the fear—ignoring the dog’s fear is the best strategy. Make sure not to reward your dog for “spook barking” at someone or something. Try to get treats in before this happens. If you miss the opportunity to distract your dog with treats, make sure you’re prepared next time to catch the dog before it starts barking. If you reward after barking starts, you are only rewarding the unwanted behavior.

This method will work for puppies as well as adult dogs. It’s important that you don’t move too fast or expect too much too soon. As with so much of dog training, patience is the key!

In hot weather, how can I keep my pet comfortable?

Both cats and dogs have a normal body temperature of 101 to102 degrees Fahrenheit and, unlike humans who sweat to cool down, they pant to maintain their body temperature. Dogs and cats can become overheated very quickly, leading to brain damage or death. Pets should never be left in hot cars—even with the window open, cars can become dangerously hot very quickly. You should also be careful not to leave your dog outside in hot weather for long periods of time.

How can I help my newly adopted dog adjust to our home?

The first seven to 14 days in a new place can be scary for a dog, but it’s a critical time to establish the rules of the house. Is the dog allowed on the furniture? What’s the dog’s schedule? Consistency is needed from every member of the household. It’s unfair and ineffective to allow the dog to do something with one person that it’s not allowed to do with someone else. Structure and boundaries will help your dog adjust and thrive.

I just adopted an adult dog. He’s not house trained. How can I prevent accidents in the house?

Most adult dogs are as easy as puppies to housetrain—sometimes even easier and faster! They respond to the same methods as puppies. Crate training is a great tool and constant supervision is necessary. When you’re out of the room, the dog should be in its crate. This eliminates the opportunity for the dog to sneak off to another room to do its business while you’re not looking. If you’re doing chores around the house, tie a leash around your waist and attach your dog. This will occupy your dog’s mind and, as a side benefit, help teach it how to walk properly on a leash.

Anytime you let your dog out of its crate, you should immediately take it outside. Don’t stay inside yourself—it’s important that you make sure your dog does its toileting outside. Without supervision, your dog may well save the puddle for inside. When your dog toilets where it’s supposed to, be generous with the praise. Throw a big party! Offer a favourite treat, a belly scratch and definitely verbal acknowledgement of a job well done. Praise and positive reinforcement are extremely effective tools in dog training.

If your dog does not go to the toilet outside, put it straight back into its crate. Take him outside again in 10 minutes and repeat this process until he goes to the bathroom. It may seem unfair or cruel, but your dog needs this consistency to learn.

If you catch your dog going to the washroom inside, yelling or “rubbing his nose in it” will not help. Simply interrupt the process and take the dog outside immediately. If you discover the pile or puddle after the fact, punishment won’t help—your dog won’t understand why you’re angry. But if you’re keeping him in his crate or under your supervision during this training period, accidents should be minimal.

No matter what your dog’s age, housebreaking is possible—it just may take some patience and effort on your part. Consistency is the key to success!

Pet Health

What causes upper respiratory virus in cats?

Upper respiratory virus (URV) is a “cat cold” caused by one of three different types of viruses (rhinotrachetis, calici and chlamydia) Recovery can take anywhere from seven to 21 days. Most cats experience mild symptoms, including sneezing, drooling, nasal discharge, eye discharge, and decreased appetite and the majority will recover without medication. If you notice thick nasal discharge, lethargy, lack of appetite, dehydration, oral ulcerations or fever contact your vet. Never give a cat medication designed for humans—the result could be fatal.

Can I prevent heartworm?

Keeping your dog on a monthly heartworm preventative dispensed by your veterinarian is a great way to help ensure your pet does not become infected with heartworm.

What is heartworm?

Heartworm occurs when a mosquito infected with heartworm larvae bites a dog, transferring the larvae from insect to canine. Mature heartworms are large roundworms that reside in the right side of the heart and the blood vessels that supply the lungs. The worms survive on nutrients from the dog’s bloodstream. The disease causes obstruction of blood flow, as well as damage to the heart, lungs and liver. Eventually, fluid will build up in the lungs and restrict the dog’s breathing. Death may result when damage to the internal organs is severe. It is important to have your dog tested at your veterinarian yearly to ensure they do not have heartworm.

How can I protect my dog from kennel cough?

Ask your vet to administer the bordetella vaccine to help protect your dog against kennel cough. This vaccine is not normally included in annual vaccine packages so you will have to ask for it specifically. The vaccine is normally injected under the dog’s skin or inhaled through the dog’s nose. Contact your vet to find out more about this vaccine.

My dog hasn’t been in a kennel. How did he get kennel cough?

Kennel cough is transmitted through airborne droplets and is easily spread from dog to dog. It is commonly seen after your dog has visited a boarding kennel, grooming facility or the dog park—anywhere that multiple dogs have been.

What is kennel cough?

Bordetella, commonly known as “kennel cough,” is a bacteria that affects dogs. Infected animals will develop a harsh, dry cough three to seven days after exposure—it often sounds as if they need to clear their throats. The cough can be triggered by exercise or activity, as well as when the dog is calm and resting.  Kennel cough normally lasts between seven and 21 days. Your dog’s appetite, energy level and overall health should not be affected. Most dogs do not require medical treatment for kennel cough and will overcome the infection on their own. If your dog appears lethargic, refuses to eat or shows symptoms in addition to those above, contact your veterinarian. Never give your dog medication without your vet’s approval.

What are my options if I can’t afford to spay or neuter my pet?

Our Community Assistance Spay/Neuter program is available for Hamilton and Burlington residents who meet our criteria. Information on the program, including the application form, is available here.

Why should I spay or neuter my pet?

Animal overpopulation is a serious problem in Hamilton, like many other cities around the world. Spaying or neutering your pet is an important and responsible means of helping to control the pet population. Spaying and neutering also decreases the risk of certain cancers, which helps keep your animal companion happy and healthy. Cats that are spayed or neutered have more calm and balanced personalities. If you have problems with a cat that sprays, neutering can help.