Shelter Medicine Externships
Goals for Shelter Medicine Externships
Student externships described here are only available to students enrolled at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. Non-UF DVM students are welcome to contact the shelters directly to inquire about externship opportunities.
- Understand the issues of animal homelessness, risk factors for relinquishment, and pet reunification
- Understand and apply the concepts of population management in shelters
- Apply concepts of quality of life and environmental enrichment in shelters
- Understand the principles of infection control, including surveillance, isolation, vaccination, cleaning and disinfection
- Develop skills in animal handling and examination
- Participate in shelter preventive health care protocols
- Perform medical and behavioral assessments
- Participate in cruelty and abuse evaluations as appropriate
Watch this video to see how much fun you’ll have with a shelter medicine externship!
Maddie’s® Award Program
Thanks to the generosity of Maddie’s Fund and The Coalition to Educate Alternatives to Senseless Euthanasia, a limited number of awards are available to students for select Shelter Medicine externship locations. Click here to learn more.
The agencies listed below have been reviewed and are qualifying externships at University of Florida, unless otherwise noted. If you are interested in pursuing an externship at an agency not listed here, visit the Host an Extern page to access the application for new agencies.
Open Admission Agencies
- The Anti-Cruelty Society
- Associated Humane Societies of New Jersey
- Charleston Animal Society
- City of El Paso Animal Services
- Clay County Animal Care & Control
- Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center
- Humane Society of Broward County
- Humane Society of Central Oregon
- Humane Society of South Mississippi
- Monmouth County SPCA
- Tallahassee Animal Services
- Young-Williams Animal Center of East Tennessee
- Alachua County Humane Society
- Animal Rescue League of Boston
- Arizona Humane Society
- Austin Humane Society
- Best Friends Animal Society
- Cat Depot
- Humane Society of Boulder Valley
- Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services
- Humane Society Naples
- Nevada Humane Society
- Oregon Humane Society
- PAWS Chicago
- Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando
- Richmond SPCA
Alachua County Humane Society
ACHS is a limited intake no kill shelter that obtains most of it’s population from the county shelter, but also occasionally from the public and surrounding shelters. Our population is almost exclusively dogs and cats and the number depends upon season. The extern will be expected to be heavily involved in intake exams, updates, sick/injured exams, medication administration, spay/neuter, behavior evaluation, population movement, etc. The skills that the extern will have the opportunity to improve or master include, but are not limited to, examination, restraint, blood draws, vaccination, deworming, basic diagnostics (snap tests, cytologies, fecals, DTM’s, corneal stains, skin scrapes, etc.), neonatal care, making treatment plans, and spay/neuter.
The extern will be asked to research medical cases as they arrive and to research shelter management dilemmas as the need arises. Additionally, the extern will be expected to present a short educational lecture to the animal care staff about cases we see frequently, such as heartworm disease, FeLV/FIV, mange, etc. If the externship occurs during our large annual adoption event, a few extra hours may be needed to help prepare the animals medically for adoption.
Animal Rescue League of Boston
The Animal Rescue League of Boston offers veterinary student externships in 1-2 week blocks throughout the year. Veterinary students spend time with all of our shelter veterinarians at our branches in Boston, Dedham, and Brewster as well as on our mobile spay/neuter vehicle, the Spay Waggin. Students participating in 2 week externships also ride along with one of our rescue technicians, spend time with shelter staff in both intake and adoption, and spend time observing behavior evaluations. Should the opportunity arise during the externship, students also are exposed to forensic veterinary medicine.
Externs get hands on experience with physical examinations, venipuncture and other basic medical techniques. Students are expected to take an active role in discussing and working up cases seen in the shelter. Externs are also scheduled to observe in surgery.
Externs are expected to complete a small written and oral presentation on a shelter medicine or HVHQSN topic of the student’s choice. The informal presentation is given to shelter staff and the supervising veterinarian(s).
The Anti-Cruelty Society
The goal is to provide an overview of basic shelter medicine and operations. We are an open admission facility focused primarily on unwanted and transport dogs and cats with some limited work with strays and exotics/pocket pets. Though population size/density varies by season we house an average of 350 animals at a time, not counting post-adoption, low income, and spay/neuter cases being seen in population management, shelter operations, behavior assessment/treatment, and intake/adoption operations.
Arizona Humane Society
The Arizona Humane Society Second Chance Animal Hospital offers 2-4 week externships for 3rd and 4th year veterinary students attending AVMA accredited universities. Students are offered hands on experience in all areas of the shelter including morning rounds, appointments, emergency medicine, spay/neuter, ambulance/investigations, behavior, etc.
The Second Chance Animal Hospital is the largest shelter-based trauma center for homeless animals in the Southwest. Second Chance Animal Hospital, which was established in 1996, is an American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accredited facility located at our Sunnyslope location in North Central Phoenix. Second Chance has a staff of more than 30 veterinary medical professionals, including veterinarians, certified veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and animal care specialists, who have chosen to dedicate their careers to shelter medicine.
Second Chance features state-of-the-art medical equipment, including digital x-ray machines, in-house diagnostic equipment, orthopedic instruments and dental equipment — all made possible through generous AHS donors — which allows us to provide prompt medical and surgical attention to nearly 10,000 homeless animals that need our care each year.
Students are also given the opportunity to explore other areas of our shelter, depending on scheduling and availability. AHS has a mobile spay/neuter clinic that operates one week out of the month and two stationary spay/neuter clinics that offer services Tuesday through Friday. We also offer a low cost veterinary clinic at our South Mountain Campus for Compassion Monday through Thursday and half day Saturday.
Arizona Humane Society Background
Since 1957, the Arizona Humane Society has fostered the belief that every pet deserves a good life. What once began as a small shelter for homeless animals has since become the state’s largest nonprofit animal welfare and protection agency, taking in over 30,000 animals each year. In addition, we are the state’s designated responder for companion animals in distress during natural disasters.
We have several new initiatives including Admissions by Appointment, Community Cats, Working Cats, Pet Resource Center, Kitten ICU and Mobile Adoptions. Animals come to us as injured strays, surrendered pets whose owners can no longer care for them, neglect and abuse confiscations who require protective custody and those who have simply been abandoned. Regardless of the hardships they have faced, all deserve a second chance at a good life.
Associated Humane Societies of New Jersey
We have a 2 week long externship for 4th year veterinary students with a focus on shelter medicine. Our shelters have an open admission and can house up to 200 dogs and 200 cats roughly between our two locations. Our Forked River facility has a dog and cat sanctuary as well as a zoo. Our externs will be expected to learn intake, adoption and preventative medicine procedures for our facilities. They will then be expected to provide these procedures to our shelter population. Externs will also participate in spay/neuter surgeries and dental procedures for shelter animals. Externs will also gain experience in ride-alongs with an ACO and work in the shelter office.
Austin Humane Society
The Austin Humane Society offers two-week long, unpaid externships for fourth year veterinary students at accredited US veterinary colleges. Limited externships are offered each year dependent on the availability of the AHS veterinarians, and priority will be given to students with an interest in shelter medicine.
AHS is a private, nonprofit, limited admission shelter that serves over 5,000 dogs and cats each year through the adoption program. In addition to the adoption program, AHS also runs a high quality, high volume spay and neuter clinic for feral cats (approximately 6,000/year). The AHS staff averages 140 surgeries per week between shelter surgeries and feral cat surgeries, and we house around 200 animals in the shelter daily and an additional 200-300 in foster care. We have 40 staff members (two full-time veterinarians, eight clinic staff) and over 700 active volunteers.
The externship schedule varies and will be set when scheduled. Students will have the opportunity to learn more about shelter medicine including common diseases, concepts of population management, the ASV standards of care, preventative care protocols, risk factors for relinquishment, environmental enrichment, principles of infection control, skills in animal handling and examination, disaster response, and cruelty/abuse evaluation. Students will learn specialized S/N techniques such as the ovarian pedicle tie, flank spays, and Miller’s knot. The externship is more heavily weighted on shelter medicine than surgery, so students interested primarily in performing a large volume of surgeries should pursue other opportunities.
Students will be allowed to perform spays/neuters on shelter animals according to student skill level. We require that you have completed your General Surgery rotation in order to get the most out of your surgical experiences with us. The surgery schedule at AHS is typically high volume, so students will be allowed to perform as many surgeries as possible as long as the pace of the clinic is adequate to finish all surgeries on time.
Best Friends Animal Society
Please contact us for more details.
Cat Depot is dedicated to helping abandoned, abused, injured and homeless felines. On any given day, Cat Depot houses around 125 cats and kittens while also providing care and support for approximately 100 cats or kittens in foster care. Externs associated with the organization will gain an understanding of the issues associated with homeless or abused cats along with the reasons and risk factors associated with animal relinquishment. An understanding of population management will be gained in Cat Depot’s 10,000 sq. ft. facility where the goal is to allow cats to free roam in individual “pods”. Feline quality of life is paramount for Cat Depot as is environmental enrichment. Externs will come to understand how stress exacerbates behavioral and medical conditions and how to minimize that stress in a shelter setting. Experience with infection control will be gained including screening, surveillance, isolation, vaccination, cleaning and disinfection with special attention being paid to upper respiratory infections, dermatophytosis and parasites. Skills will be gained in animal handling (with the focus being on towel restraint) and examination.
Externs should expect to participate in shelter preventive health care protocols including but not limited to vaccinations, parasite treatments, nutritional management and dental procedures. Cat Depot houses, provides care for and adopts out Feline Immunodeficiency Virus positive cats so a familiarity in management of this condition will be gained. Externs will also perform medical and behavioral assessments while working side by side with other medical personnel and adoption counselors. First hand experience will also be achieved in the arena of high volume spay/neuter surgery, including pediatric sterilization, while working with shelter felines along with patients working through Cat Depot’s in-house Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Release program. Recognizing that donors, volunteers and employees are crucial to the success of most animal welfare organizations, externs will also gain experience in working and interacting with those individuals.
Charleston Animal Society
The Charleston Animal Society is pleased to offer 2-4 week externships to veterinary students entering their clinical year. Our organization is one of the oldest humane organizations in the south, sheltering hundreds of thousands of animals since our founding in 1874. Originally named the John Ancrum SPCA, the Charleston Animal Society is a private, non-profit shelter with a county contract. We operate an open-admissions shelter, receiving any and all animals from Charleston County.
Our average intake is between 11 and 12,000 animals per year. In addition to sheltering, we operate a high-volume spay/neuter clinic six days a week, performing spays and neuters on dog, cats, and rabbits. We have about 50 employees, including 4 veterinarians. Your externship will include shelter medicine, high-volume spay/neuter training, and exposure to animal behavior analysis and animal control methods. If you require lodging while in Charleston, it may be available with a staff member for a small weekly fee.
City of El Paso Animal Services
The City of El Paso Animal Services is a large municipal shelter that admits more than 20,000 animals per year. During this shelter medicine externship, the student will perform medical rounds, treat in-shelter and foster animals, learn to identify problems and needs of shelter animals, identify infectious diseases, experience the challenges of an open admission shelter, learn the importance of population management strategies that reduce length of stay and increase live release, perform behavior evaluations, work on forensic cases, and ride along with animal control officers The student will also have opportunities to increase their surgery skills by participating in spay/neuter surgeries, and other surgeries such as enucleations and limb amputations.
Clay County Animal Care & Control
Clay County Animal Care & Control is an open admission, municipal agency that serves all of Clay County, Florida. The annual intake is around 3500 dogs and cats per year but the facility also takes in horses and livestock as needed.
Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center
We are a large, open admission county shelter that impounds up to 20,000 animals per year. We have recently achieved a consistent 80-90% live release rate. We typically house approximately 400-600 animals on site. We perform a lot of animal cruelty investigation, including hoarding, neglect, abuse, and dog fighting cases. The facility has approximately 80 employees, including three full-time and one part-time veterinarians, 15 veterinary technicians (five certified), and a Practice Manager for the veterinary section. The goal of the externship is to provide training in shelter medicine, including protocols, disease control/herd health, disaster response, animal cruelty, field operations, treatment of shelter animals, and high-volume and pediatric spay/neuter. Student externs are asked to have completed their small animal surgery clinical rotation prior to the externship. Students who have completed shelter medicine classes will be given priority. Student externs must have liability insurance provided by their school.
Humane Society of Boulder Valley
The first week(s) will focus on the processes around impoundment and adoption of companion animals, providing students the opportunity to hone physical exam skills, learn about behavior evaluation and disease control in the shelter environment. Practices will include treatment and vaccination of shelter animals, physical exams, behavior assessment, involvement in adoption counseling, overview of animal control services in our community, euthanasia, and didactic information available. 1-2 weeks is spent in the veterinary clinic where students perform sterilization surgery and general medical care for shelter/foster animals. The weeks do not have to be consecutive but it is preferred.
Humane Society of Broward County
The Humane Society of Broward County is a 33,000 square foot, completely air-conditioned, non-profit, open admission animal shelter, providing aid, responsible adoptions to animals entrusted to our care, and educates the community about respect and kindness to all animals. We intake nearly 16,000 animals per year with a 90% live release rate of dogs and 75% live release rate of cats. Our facility has the ability to house over 300 dogs, cats, and exotic animals. And has placed nearly 9,000 animals into homes during 2013. We have implemented many programs to help promote surrender prevention and responsible care to all animals. The Humane Society of Broward County includes a shelter for companion animals, veterinary clinic for shelter animals and limited outpatient services, behavior training enrichment, and humane education department.
Humane Society of Central Oregon
The externship would entail shadowing and participating in the care and welfare of sheltered animals. We are an open-admission shelter. We do our best to treat and care for all animals coming into the shelter with disease or illness and for those that develop issues during their shelter stay.
Our mission in the veterinary clinic is to alleviate pain/suffering, perform spay/neuter surgeries to all adopted and adoptable animals, provide additional treatment/surgery to improve adoptability or create adoptability in an animal that is otherwise less adoptable. We do perform euthanasias at this shelter, but they are almost entirely for medical or behavioral issues. During the externship, the student could expect experience in the following areas: medicine, surgery, adoptions, intake, behavioral assessments, animal control officer ride-along, protocols, and rounds. The externship can be what the student makes it, as I am flexible and want to engender a love of shelter medicine in new students.
Humane Society Naples
The Humane Society Naples is a limited admission non-profit organization operating in SW Florida that shelters and adopts 3-4000 dogs, cats, and small mammals, per year. The animals we shelter come from private owners, county animal services, as well as out of state and out of country shelters. We receive no government funding and rely solely on adoption fees and charitable donations from individuals. We operate a cage-free, guaranteed adoption system.
Humane Society of South Mississippi
Externs at HSSM have the opportunity to experience three of the major areas of work in shelters: high-volume high-quality spay/neuter, shelter medicine and herd health, and forensic veterinary medicine. The students’ time will be divided between surgery and shelter animal care. Cruelty cases and large-scale rescue/hoarding operations are fielded as they are received. Students will have to opportunity to interact with HSSM’s large staff and participate in all aspects of shelter and programs management including adoptions, volunteer, foster, animal care/surrender, and spay/neuter departments. Previous externs have commented that they have left HSSM with a new perspective on how a shelter operates and what can be accomplished at a large open-admission facility.
Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services
We are the animal control agency for Jacksonville, FL, so our population is rather unpredictable. We have between 200-500 stray, surrendered, and confiscated animals in our care on a daily basis. We are also an adoption facility, so we perform spay/neuter surgeries on a daily basis. We treat ringworm, Parvovirus, upper respiratory infections, Sarcoptic and Demodex Mange, and many hit-by-car animals in-house, so herd-health management is essential. We also treat and house animals we confiscate from cruelty and hoarding
Our objectives for veterinary interns include, but are not limited to hands-on experience in: disease management, medication protocols, treatment protocols, behavior assessments, animal cruelty documentation, preventative care and maintenance practices, diagnostic practices, and basic surgery exposure.
Monmouth County SPCA
We are a non-for profit open admission shelter. Intake is around 2000 cats and 500 dogs per year. On any given day, we care directly for 60 dogs and 300 + cats. This does not include our foster network. Our spay clinic sterilizes and performs other procedures on shelter animals. It also is involved in community TNR and reduced cost S/N to the public.
- To explore all aspects of shelter medicine- including intake, medical workups and treatment, infectious disease management, behavior problems, population medicine.
- Observe, assist and perform sterilizations of shelter and TNR animals.
- Become more comfortable with all steps of anesthesia induction, maintenance, and recovery.
- Become familiar with surgical complications and how to properly address them.
- Become familiar with local TNR efforts.
- Learn about the importance of spay and neuter, and discuss hwo to sell this message to the public.
- Learn about behavior evaluations like SAFER and Felinality.
- Overview of shelter management- open dialogue of common issues that shelters face such as resource management, community education, staff education and training, increasing live release, biosecurity, working with local private practices, and addressing quality of life concerns for animals.
- Review standard of care guidelines for shelter animals provided by American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians
Nevada Humane Society
The extern responsibilities include, but are not limited to, medical rounds throughout the shelter with shelter veterinarian; examination of recently adopted animals, angel pets, and fosters; spay/neuter for shelter pets; and various other surgeries. The extern will have the opportunity to witness and participate in behavior exams for dogs. Population management will be discussed and the student will have opportunities to follow the path of dogs and cats through the shelter. This is a hands on, real world experience with ample opportunity to advance medical and surgical skills.
Oregon Humane Society
Oregon Humane Society is a private, not-for-profit animal shelter located in Portland. It serves the needs of over 11,000 pets each year with a full service hospital providing full care to shelter pets and spay neuter services and wellness care for privately owned pets of low income families.
Externships in Shelter Medicine at PAWS Chicago enable students to gain an understanding of the complexity of disease management in a shelter environment, how to provide high quality medical care, and how to utilize a foster network. They will also gain insight to the business rationale and dynamics behind the processes, protocols, and practices of the PAWS Chicago Lurie Clinic and Rescue & Recovery Center.
Shelter Medicine Externship experience will include working in the following areas:
- Daily Medication Rounds – Responsibilities: Working with the shelter medicine team to administer treatments to animals housed at the Rescue and Recovery Center, morning and afternoon.
- Initial Exams – Responsibilities: Working with the shelter medicine team on the initial exams performed on the animals. This includes a comprehensive physical exam, age-appropriate vaccinations, microchipping, preventive treatment (fleas, worms), and diagnostic screening (FIV/FeLV/heartworm). Based on the initial exam, the animal will be cleared for surgery and/or adoption or if the animal is ill, externs will participate in the diagnosis, the treatment plan and the prescription of medication as necessary.
- Recheck Exams – Responsibilities: Working with the shelter medicine team on physical examinations of animals that are on medical hold, clearing them for surgery or prescribing a new course of treatment.
Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando
Our externship objectives are to increase a young Veterinarian’s awareness and passion for the exciting field of shelter medicine, spay/neuter surgery and community veterinary practice. Here in Central Florida, we are lucky to have a committed team of nine veterinarians with two facilities to provide quality shelter care, community affordable veterinary care and easily accessible spay and neuter services.
The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to create more caring communities by promoting happier, healthier pets and their families. To achieve this mission, we offer a variety of services including: two full-service shelters which offer refuge for pets who no longer can be cared for by their families, two outpatient affordable community veterinary practices, and a mobile spay/neuter unit to provide sterilization services in neighborhoods where pets are most at risk. Some highlights from this past 2014 calendar year include placing over 6400 pets into new loving homes, sterilizing over 14,400 cats and dogs and seeing over 44,000 patients in our public clinics. We developed new working relationships with our government partners and increased our overall Central Florida live release rate of homeless pets with adoption transfers and assistance with targeted spay/neuter efforts.
Animals surrendered to the organization are evaluated for health and temperament prior to being placed up for adoption. We have a full-time behaviorist who manages daily enrichment for the shelter animals, SAFER assessments and behavior modification programs for dogs. All animals made available for adoption are altered, microchipped, vaccinated, tested and current on heartworm and flea prevention. We offer free heartworm treatments for adopted dogs and are able to provide additional medical services for adopted pets when needed such as entropian surgery, tumor removals, dental care, etc.
The responsibilities of the extern will be to learn as much as possible about shelter medicine by working in two very different facilities and with a variety of veterinarians. The extern will spend time in all areas of the shelter including receiving, daily feeding/cleaning, adoptions, isolation, and with the behaviorist. The extern will work directly with the shelter veterinarian to provide exams, treatments and spay or neuter services. They will get some time in the community practice and hands on spay and neuter time in both the shelter clinic and on feral cat days in the public clinic.
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The Richmond SPCA hosts fourth year veterinary students for two or three week blocks to allow them exposure to the field of Shelter Medicine. We are a private, non-profit, no-kill shelter with an average yearly admission of approximately 3500 dogs and cats. No two days are alike and we feel that we offer a wonderfully broad overview of the field. We have on average 300 animals in the system at any given time. The dogs and cats at the facility are afforded everything that veterinary medicine has to offer. We have relationships with local specialists including board certified surgeons, ophthalmologists, dermatologists and cardiologists that welcome our students shadowing when they see one of our patients.
Our staff of four veterinarians and five licensed technicians operate a high quality, high volume spay neuter clinic and wellness clinic that serve the low income community of Richmond and the surrounding areas. The Richmond SPCA has a full behavior staff on site, a behavior helpline and operates an extensive humane education department. The education team operates summer camps with various themes and focuses as well hosts parties, tours and events that expose the community to animal welfare issues.
Our adoption facility is open seven days a week and offers many offsite adoption possibilities as well. We have an enormous volunteer program with over 200 active participants. Volunteers serve in all capacities at the Richmond SPCA. Our development department works tirelessly to raise the funds needed to care for our animals as well as offer affordable veterinary care to the public.
We make every effort to expose veterinary students to all aspects of the operations here at the Richmond SPCA. Often times students come to us with particular interests but we feel that the field of shelter medicine benefits the most from teaching students at every level of our organization. The veterinary side of a shelter is intricately tied to the management and fund raising goals. Admissions directly impact adoptions and the veterinary team plays a crucial role in bringing in healthy animals, keeping them well or rehabilitating them and getting them into permanent loving homes. Behavioral challenges occur everyday and are a big part of what ultimately ends up in the shelter system.
Working with these animals helps the student that becomes a shelter veterinarian directly but also the student that becomes a private practitioner and uses the same skills to keep the behavior challenge in a home. Students will also leave with a good understanding of how the different specialties can work together to benefit the shelter population. So on any given day a student may do physical exams, surgery, help with a critter camp, vaccinate foster care kittens, treat kennel cough or ringworm, write a blog about heartworms, attend staff training, assist the behavior team with a dog exhibiting barrier frustration, accompany the transfer team to another shelter, teach an adopter to give insulin injections to their new cat or bottle feed puppies. We sincerely strive for the students to leave with an understanding of the challenges facing shelter medicine but to also be exposed to the deep rewards and fulfillment that it affords us all.
Tallahassee Animal Services
The Tallahassee Animal Service Center (ASC) is a regional animal shelter owned by the City of Tallahassee, which serves the surrounding community. Our facility is an open-admission facility and takes in approximately 6,000 animals annually. The veterinary team (two full-time veterinarians and two full-time veterinary technicians) deals with the issues of overpopulation, stray and abandoned animals, population medicine (over 200 animals on-site daily), and animal neglect on a daily basis. The staff veterinarians and veterinary technicians assess and treat all sick and injured animals that enter the facility. In addition to the urgent and emergent medical care provided to the animals, the veterinary team is responsible for surgical sterilization of all adoptable animals.
The primary purpose of the externship is to expose veterinary students to the many aspects of shelter medicine. Major objectives are to acquaint veterinary students with:
* Disease prevention and control principles for animal shelter populations
* The interaction of public policy and domestic animal health
* High volume spay/neuter practices
Externs will be involved in daily population and medical rounds, patient care, forensic examinations, intake examinations, behavioral health programs, shelter surgery (primarily spay/neuter, but other procedures as the need arises), monthly rabies vaccination & microchip clinics, shelter administration/management tasks, and public education activities, as scheduled. Externs will also of the option to spend time in the field with our animal control officers.
The goals for shelter medicine externs at Young-Williams Animal center are to: gain experience working in a shelter, see a large variety of medical cases, learn basic shelter medicine, practice high quality high volume spay neuter techniques based on Humane Alliance methods, gain a basic understanding of what shelter staff do and face.