Beyond Steering: Education Pays Dividends


Marion Emo, Chief Executive Officer, Hamilton/Burlington SPCA

There are three important things we can do for our pets’ health and well-being: get them spayed/neutered, seeing a vet regularly for preventative care and getting our new friends microchipped for safe return home if they get lost.

The Hamilton/Burlington SPCA, local veterinarians, the OVMA, Royal Canin and Cat Healthy collaborated to ensure forever homes last forever. The "Teaming up for Cats" project in Fall 2015 helped educate new pet parents about follow-up care post adoption and the role of a veterinarian throughout a cat’s life. All cat adopters were encouraged to choose a vet, and then the cat’s medical history and a copy of the completed adoption checklist was sent to the vet prior to the first visit.

The legacy of this project has transformed adoption practices at the shelter. The Cat Healthy Adoption Checklist™ is a fully integrated feature in the adoption process. As important, a majority of adopters without a vet are now choosing a veterinary practice at point of adoption or within a week of adoption.


  1. Acquire insight into teaching tools for adoption staff and volunteers.
  2. Learn how to practically and effectively have open conversations about choosing a vet.
  3. Learn how to engage your veterinarian community by participating in the “Teaming up for Cats” campaign.

Marion Emo is President and CEO of the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA, a registered animal welfare charity having served the community now for 131 years and counting. Marion is a transplanted Montrealer. Her educational background is social work and urban planning and, for 20 years, she worked in the Ontario health sector on system design and the organization of health services for optimal health and wellness for people and communities. She discovered that these imperatives are not much different in the animal world. The HBSPCA supports pet owners to be the pet parents they want to be; strives to keep pets healthy and safe in their loving homes; advances a positive animal human bond, and, is modernizing its once “state of the art” shelter, which is only 22 years old. Marion served on the advisory group to the national cat overpopulation survey and report (2017) led by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

With Marion’s leadership and commitment to collaboration, the HBSPCA continues to be an innovator and early adopter. The shelter was a pilot site for the “shelter to vet” program, linking each new pet parent and their Cat Healthy Adoption Checklist™, with a community veterinarian for follow up and life-long care. The HBSPCA renewed its commitment to the innovative D-Bronx program, wherein 4 youth in custodial care are each paired with a shelter dog for 4 weeks for mutually rewarding benefits. The youth care for and train the dogs, ready them for adoption and discover new insights about themselves.
Marion’s social change interests include livable environments, living wage and knowledge transfer. While hardly a gardener, Marion does experiment with native grasses in her backyard.