The Value of Shelter Medicine Training
The Demand for Trained Shelter Medicine Professionals
Shelter Medicine is an emerging specialty field in veterinary medicine. Since 2005, members of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians have been working to develop a comprehensive assessment of Shelter Medicine as a potential specialty, evaluating current training opportunities, developing an analysis of specialist-level knowledge requirements, and nurturing shelter medicine training across the country.
Shortage of Specialists and Trained Practitioners
Only three veterinary schools currently have residency programs in shelter medicine, and four schools offer internships in the field. Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program is proud to offer both residency and internship programs, but there is still an unmet need for in-depth training. There is a critical shortage of both specialists in this field and trained practitioners able to provide the programs and services necessary to keep shelter animals healthy and facilitate their live release.
Gaps in Veterinary Education
Most veterinary schools have not yet begun to fully incorporate shelter medicine topics in their curriculum. Of the 28 accredited veterinary schools in the U.S., only a handful offer an overview course in shelter medicine to veterinary students. Some veterinary students can receive academic credit for externships in shelters, but there is currently no formal standard for externship experiences and not all externships are supervised by a shelter veterinarian. Spay/neuter surgery courses are increasingly important as a form of service learning for veterinary students, though they are not typically aimed at preparing veterinarians prepared to excel in high-quality, high-volume surgical programs, as is often expected in shelter medicine.
Shelter Medicine Progress
On April 30, 2012, the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) accepted the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ petition to form a recognized specialty in shelter medicine under their auspices. This is the first and a big step forward in the effort for shelter medicine to be recognized as a full-fledged specialty like oncology and cardiology. Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program faculty have been instrumental in promoting recognition by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s ABVP for the important role shelter medicine plays in saving pets’ lives.
While the development of board certification requirements (such as training, experience, and examination) and final approval by ABVP are still under development, our Certificates in Shelter Medicine are available today – and are designed to equip veterinarians to make a lasting impact on the health and welfare of shelter animals.
Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida
Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program offers a Certificate in Shelter Medicine to enrolled students at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, preparing them through coursework, clinical hands-on teaching, supervised in-shelter experiences, and research opportunities.
Shelter Medicine Training Outside of Veterinary Schools
For those already working in the field, most major veterinary conferences now offer additional education tracks in shelter medicine. In addition, some non-profit agencies (such as the ASPCA®, Maddie’s Institute®, and PetSmart Charities®) offer webinars covering topics in Shelter Medicine.