Shelter Medicine Internship: Make a difference for animals from Alaska to Puerto Rico

Do you have a deep, personal passion to change the world for shelter pets? Are you ready to develop the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to join a shelter and make an immediate positive impact for shelter animals and the communities they live in? Would you like to be part of saving animals and bringing sustainable sheltering programs from Alaska to Puerto Rico? If this is you, then you might be our next shelter medicine intern!

Although keeping animals in shelters healthy is essential to their placement in homes, there’s a critical shortage of veterinarians with special expertise in shelter medicine. With financial sponsorship by Maddie’s Fund, our internship program is designed to produce a skilled practitioner well-equipped for shelter practice or to be competitive for a residency program in the shelter medicine specialty.

The core component of the internship is hands-on medical, behavioral, and surgical care of patients in a mentored shelter environment. The interns will participate in several clinical rotations selected from a palette of open-admission municipal and limited-admission adoption-guarantee shelters in Florida. The participating shelters have advanced shelter medicine programs led by full-time shelter veterinarians, many of whom are alumni of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program.

These in-shelter rotations provide training in best practices for preventive healthcare, treatment of ill and injured animals, monitoring animal health and welfare, principles of population medicine and management, infectious disease recognition and response, community cat management, cruelty investigations, and surgery. Back at the college, the interns will work with the shelter medicine faculty in veterinary forensic medicine, shelter consultations, diagnosis and management of disease outbreaks in shelters, and large-scale field responses to disasters involving animals, including mass seizures of abused or neglected animals. Interns with a special interest in feline health and welfare can elect to spend extra time with the Million Cat Challenge, FeLV research, Operation Catnip, cat shelter rotations, and feline disease outbreaks.

Interns will also have the opportunity to be part of our ongoing shelter consultation work in Puerto Rico, funded by The Humane Society of the United States. Current intern Dr. Amelia Sikora, upon returning from her first visit to the island as a participant in the mass Spayathon program, said, “It is really something you have to experience before you can understand the hard work, magnitude, and reach these programs have for Puerto Rico. I loved everyone I worked with there, and I’ve made life long veterinary friends.”

Dr. Amelia Sikora in Puerto Rico

“A unique component of our shelter medicine internship program includes completion of several certificate programs that supplement the clinical training phase,” said Dr. Cynda Crawford. “The intern will complete courses in shelter medicine, forensics, and behavior certification as a Fear Free Practitioner, and FEMA certification necessary for assisting with animal disasters or emergencies at both the state and federal level.”

2017-2018 intern Dr. Meagan Mielo Mielo thinks more veterinary students and veterinarians would benefit from studying and working in the field of shelter medicine. “When you get into a shelter, you learn there’s more to shelter medicine than just spaying or neutering. There’s population health, there’s individual health, there’s animal welfare. There are so many things that go into shelter medicine that you can’t really appreciate until you’re in it. Specialists who I’ve worked with during school would say things about shelter medicine like, ‘Oh, you just want to do spays and neuters forever.’ But that’s not true at all; I want to do everything. And that’s what’s great about shelter medicine: you encompass it all.”

Dr. Mielo in the brand-new catio at the Villa Michelle Albergue Animales in Mayagúez, Puerto Rico.

Applications must be submitted online through the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program by Dec 9, 2019. You can find full details on applying through the VIRMP website.

What happened during the first month of Dr. Sikora’s internship? Here’s a taste: