Shelter Dogs  

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell

Veterinary Student Training

Veterinary Student Education Regarding Shelter Medicine


The Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell offers three elective courses regarding shelter medicine in the professional curriculum.

  • Companion Animal Welfare (VTMED 6734)
    Offered principally to first- and second-year students, although upperclassmen may enroll.

    This 16-hour course includes the following topics: brief history of animal sheltering and the veterinary community, reasons for pet homelessness, the veterinarian’s role in addressing homelessness, the issues of declawing, ear cropping, tail docking, greyhound racing, puppy mills, designer animals, dog fighting, breed bans, mandatory S/N legislation, quality of life, animals and New York State law, animal neglect and cruelty, feral cat care, control and controversies, behavioral health and implications for welfare.


  • Shelter Medicine I (VTMED 6425)
    Offered to third- and fourth-year students.

    This 16-hour course includes the following topics: principles of preventive medicine and disease surveillance, wellness protocols including vaccination and sanitation, interface of management with veterinary care, management of infectious and zoonotic diseases in animal shelters, high-quality, high-volume and pediatric spay/neuter, day in the life of a shelter veterinarian, euthanasia, and behavioral evaluation and care of shelter dogs and cats.


  • Shelter Medicine II (VTMED 6434)
    Offered to third- and fourth-year students.

    This 16-hour course includes the following topics: veterinary forensics, shelter metrics, foster care, facility design, transport programs, animal restraint, and a series of discussions of decision-making and case management in shelters.

Core Curriculum 

  • Shelter Medicine and Physical Examination 

    This laboratory is a component of the course Animals, Veterinarians and Society, and is taken by all first-year veterinary students. Students tour the SPCA of Tompkins County, discuss the roles of a veterinarian in an animal shelter, and examine animals for the shelter.
  • Handling, Restraint and Examination of Cats 

    Working with cats from the SPCA of Tompkins County, first-year students learn to be safe and minimize stress while handling cats.


  • Shelter Rotation while on Community Practice Service (CPS)

    All students rotating through the CPS rotation (as a third- or fourth-year student) spend a minimum of 3 hours at the SPCA of Tompkins County in the company of the Shelter Medicine Program behaviorist or clinician. This visit, while the students are completing their clinical rotations, provides opportunities for third- and fourth-year students to offer care to the local shelter and at the same time, enhance their clinical skills. The experience re-emphasizes the importance of shelter medicine (encompassing behavior and medicine) shortly before veterinary students become veterinarians in communities with homeless animals.


  • Lectures in Other Core Courses

    Shelter medicine related issues are also covered in other core courses including Feline Infectious Diseases, Agent, Host and Disease, Animals, Veterinarians, and Society, and Vaccinology.

Shelter Medicine Club

The Shelter Medicine Club is an official student chapter of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. The club was founded in 1999, and sponsors evening lectures regarding a variety of shelter medicine-related topics; visits the SPCA of Tompkins County bi-monthly with the Director of Clinical Programs to examine and treat shelter animals; and offers periodic field trips to area shelters to broaden student perspectives on animal sheltering.