Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell

Shelter Dogs  

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell

Shelter Medicine

Traditionally, the focus of companion animal veterinary training has been on the health of individual animals. In shelters, large numbers of animals share common sources of air, food, water, living space and caretaker attention, increasing stress and facilitating disease transmission and the development of behavior problems. The health and welfare of the population influences the health and welfare of all individuals and vice versa.

Complete veterinary care of shelter animals requires focused expertise combining elements of epidemiology, infectious disease control, behavior, surgery and shelter management. More specifically, the shelter veterinarian should have an expanded understanding in the following areas:

  • Shelter facility design and operation
  • Husbandry, including housing, nutrition, and sanitation
  • Preventive medicine, including vaccination
  • Infectious disease management, diagnosis, and treatment
  • Resource management and risk analysis
  • High quality high volume surgical techniques
  • Companion animal welfare
  • Behavior evaluation and environmental enrichment
  • Animal cruelty investigation and veterinary forensics
  • Public health
  • Personnel management

Shelter medicine veterinarians must also be well versed in legal, regulatory, ethical and emotional aspects of shelter animal care. Many veterinarians learn these skills through on-the-job training but there are also veterinarians who have underdone specialized training in shelter medicine. Several universities offer internships, fellowships, residencies or online courses for veterinarians which enhance their understanding of shelter medicine.

Additional Resources

Association for Shelter Veterinarians (ASV)
The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ (ASV) is a professional organization of shelter veterinarians. Their website includes position statements and a job board. The ASV’s position statements are offered primarily as a service to ASV members to help raise the standards of care for animal shelter medicine and should be used accordingly.

Read the Position Statement on Veterinary Supervision in Animal Shelters here. (same link)

Recruiting a Veterinarian for Your Organization (same link)
This article is authored by Dr. Jim Weedon and the National Task Force to Advance High Quality/High Volume Spay/Neuter. It explains strategies to recruit and retain a veterinarian to work for your spay/neuter clinic

AVMA Position Statements (same link)
What does the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have to say about veterinarians working with humane organizations and animal control agencies? What about feral cats, spay/neuter laws, and other welfare issues? Find out by reading their position statements and guidelines.