Shelter Dogs  

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell

Internship Training

Internship in Shelter Medicine

The internship in shelter medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University offers training for veterinarians interested in the exciting new discipline of shelter medicine. 

Shelter medicine differs from traditional small animal private practice in that it blends individual patient care with population health management, including preventive medicine and behavioral health. Prior to 1999, veterinarians working in shelters did so without formal training or external recognition of the specialized knowledge that comprises shelter medicine. The first course in shelter medicine, conceived by Dr. Lila Miller of the ASPCA and Dr. Jan Scarlett of Cornell University, was taught at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Since then, and thanks in large part to Maddie’s Fund, the specialized training in shelter medicine for veterinary students and graduate veterinarians has expanded on a yearly basis, and now incorporates over two dozen schools, offering everything from elective courses for first- and second-year students to externships, internships, and residencies.

Comprehensive veterinary care of shelter animals requires - in addition to a strong foundation in clinical veterinary practice - a focused expertise combining elements of preventive medicine, epidemiology, infectious disease diagnosis and control, behavioral science, public health, and surgery. Additionally, the shelter medicine specialist must have an expanded understanding of other areas not emphasized under traditional veterinary medical training; these include, but are not limited to, shelter facility design and operation, animal husbandry (nutrition, sanitation, disinfection), companion animal welfare, cruelty investigation, public health, personnel management, psycho-social aspects of sheltering, resource management and risk analysis, and strategies for animal population control.

In 2001 the Association of Shelter Veterinarians formed to further advance the interests of shelter veterinarians both within the profession and in the public eye. Accomplishments to date include advancement towards a specialty board in shelter medicine to be recognized by the AVMA, as well as several groundbreaking documents outlining standards of care and protocols for high-quality medical practices within shelters. It is an exciting time to be a part of shelter medicine.

Internship Requirements

The application and selection process for the Shelter Medicine Internships occurs through the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching 

Prerequisites for entering the matching process are a DVM or equivalent degree AND active licensure in at least one state in the United States (preferred) or country of origin. Preference will be given to candidates demonstrating previous interest and experience in shelter medicine. Requirements for applying to the VIRMP Program are:

  1. VIRMP application
  2. Veterinary School Official Transcript from University Registrar
  3. Personal Statement
  4. Curriculum Vitae
  5. 3-4 Standardized Letters of Reference 

Internship Objectives

Our internship in shelter medicine has specific objectives:

  1. To provide advanced training in topics of preventive medicine and epidemiology as they apply to animal shelters. This includes visits to local participating shelters, as well as consultations with shelters requesting specific assistance over the course of the year. It is expected that by the year’s end the intern will be competent to complete a comprehensive facility evaluation with a consulting shelter, and offer formal recommendations in a final report.

  2. To provide opportunities to advance clinical knowledge and skills in general veterinary medicine, but especially in the areas of infectious disease, internal medicine, dermatology, ophthalmology, and exotics. This will be accomplished both in completion of clinical rotations in specialty departments of the Companion Animal Hospital, as well as providing on-site care at participating shelters. The intern will also gain insight into providing quality veterinary care with minimal diagnostic capabilities and practical treatment limitations.

  3. To provide advanced training in spay/neuter techniques, specifically those supporting high-quality/high-volume programs and pediatric spay/neuter. This will include participation in spay/neuter at SPCA of Tompkins County, Shelter Outreach Services, and Lollypop Farm, as well as opportunities for travel to the Humane Alliance Training Facility and an HSVMA field services clinic.

  4. To provide advanced training in companion animal behavioral health as it applies to animal shelters. This will be accomplished through two week-long rotations with the shelter medicine behaviorist and will consist of lectures and hands-on training at the SPCA of Tompkins County. 

  5. To provide opportunities to develop didactic and clinical teaching skills. The first will involve training in technology and delivery of high-quality, professional lectures. The second will involve developing skills in small group facilitation and collaborative case-based clinical learning. Audiences will include academic colleagues, veterinary students, shelter staff, and at times, pet owners.

  6. To provide exposure to the psycho-social aspects of working in shelters, including but not limited to, recognition of animal abuse/neglect, issues in shelter staff management, “marketing” of animals in shelters, and new technologies to aid shelter management.

  7. To provide training in the areas of forensic pathology and cruelty investigation. This may include working in cooperation with the anatomic pathology department in necropsy as caseload allows.

  8. To provide advanced training in shelter facility evaluation. Medical protocols will always be examined in light of intake protocols, housing, staffing, and facility issues.

  9. To provide support for academic research and scientific writing.
    This will include the production and/ or publication of one scholarly case report demonstrating a comprehensive review of the relevant literature and synthesis of the principles of shelter medicine.
    This will also include the construction of an evidence-based Medical Policy and Protocol suitable for implementation at the SPCA of Tompkins County.

  10. To provide opportunities to develop skills in data collection and management utilizing shelter-friendly software: in this case, PetPoint.

  11. To expose interns to diverse and varied shelter settings. Interns will be required to visit informally a minimum of 15 animal shelters during the course of the internship year.

Further Information 

Elizabeth Berliner, DVM
Director of Clinical Programs
Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program
S1-068 Schurman Hall
College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853