The Hamilton-Burlington SPCA hit a three-year high for pet adoptions in the month of December last year. Last month, 162 animals found new homes, part of the approximately 1,800 pets adopted in 2013 in total.

The numbers were trumped only by the month of July, when 203 pets were adopted, in part due to a specific case where 149 greyhound dogs were seized from unacceptable conditions in 2012. Last July, the greyhounds were finally up for adoption and those who had been waiting to give the dogs a new home picked them up.

The holiday surge was due to a number of factors, according to HBSPCA CEO Marion Emo. She said greater awareness about the benefits of adopting a rescue pet helped, as did a reduced price on cats.

"We had an awful lot of cats so we did lower prices on cats," Emo explained. 

Along with being spayed or neutered, vaccinated and micro-chipped, all SPCA pets are carefully matched to their new owners to ensure a good fit, Emo said.

"Animals have all different kinds of personalities, just like people," she said. "If someone comes in looking for a lap cat that's going to give them instant gratification, we can match them with the right cat as opposed to a happy but aloof cat."

Emo said people often worry that pets adopted in December as holiday gifts will wind up back at the shelter soon after, but that's not the case.

"That is one of the things I would have thought," said the CEO, who joined the HBSPCA last January.

"But what I have learned from staff is that just isn't the case. We have a very low rate of return and we don't see any increase between the months of November to February."

She added the surge in adoptions is especially good news for pets currently in custody at Hamilton animal services who can now find spots at the SPCA shelter and, hopefully, a new forever home.