Shelter Medicine Externships
Practical Shelter Medicine and Spay/Neuter Training

Externships are elective experiences reserved for Junior and Senior veterinary students from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. Students pursuing the Professional Certificate in Shelter Medicine are required to complete a total of two, for-credit externships at an approved location that build upon their didactic knowledge with clinical training in this specialized field of study.

VEM5892: Shelter Medicine Externship


During a 2-credit Shelter Medicine externship, most of a student’s time will be spent working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian in the shelter. In addition, some time may be spent with veterinary technicians, kennel staff, animal control officers, and customer service representatives to gain a full appreciation of the wide range of shelter activities and functions. 


  • 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
Students holding puppies in a shelter wearing scrubs

– Cora (Class of 2021), Extern at Clay County Animal Services

“During my externship I got to experience an amazing example of a shelter that is doing so much right with limited resources. This shelter is the kind of place I see my future self!”

VEM5892: Spay/Neuter Externship


During a 2-credit Spay/Neuter externship, students will spend the majority of their time developing their surgical proficiency while also exploring the facets of successful high-quality-high-volume Spay/Neuter programs.


  • Increase efficiency and skill in performing spay/neuter surgery
  • Understand safe and effective anesthetic and analgesic protocols
  • Implement techniques to improve efficiency in a high quality, high volume setting (i.e. smaller incisions, pedicle ties, Miller’s knots, flank spays, etc.)
  • Learn safe and efficient techniques for pediatric sterilization
  • Learn safe and effective techniques for feral cat sterilization, if available
  • Enhance technical skills such as intravenous catheter placement, tracheal intubation, and surgical preparation
Group of students at ASPCA

– Brittany (Class of 2016), Extern at ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance

“Externs are trained in the best, fastest surgical techniques to minimize time under anesthesia, use small, minimally invasive and minimally painful incisions and essentially become specialists at their craft.”

Externship Guidelines

Externships are typically completed during the summer between years 3 and 4 of your DVM education. Students are responsible for arranging their individual externship experiences at an approved location and must officially enroll in each externship for credit in order to fulfill the requirements for the Certificate in Shelter Medicine on your transcript. 

Approved Externship Locations

The Shelter Medicine Program maintains a list of approved externship host sites that include animal sheltering organizations and high-volume sterilization clinics from all over the country. The selected organizations have committed to providing our UF Certificate in Shelter Medicine students with valuable mentorship and primary exposure to a unique set of learning activities. Organizations participating in the student externship program meet the Professional Certificate in Shelter Medicine qualifications in conjunction with the college’s Office for Academic and Student Affairs and strive to adhere to the ASV Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters. 

Earning Credits

Junior and Senior students pursuing the Professional Certificate in Shelter Medicine must officially enroll in two unique externships to fulfill this 4-credit requirement:

  • VEM 5892 Shelter Medicine Externship (2 Credits)
  • VEM 5892 Spay/Neuter Externship (2 Credits)

Please refer to the Externship Guidelines provided by the Office for Academic and Student Affairs for additional information about enrolling in externships.