Module 9: The Role of the Shelter Veterinarian

Becoming a Boarded Specialist in Shelter Medicine

Shelter Medicine Specialty

In 2005, four years after the founding of ASV, a decade-long process to establish a formal specialty recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association was undertaken.

The skills and knowledge needed by a specialist in Shelter Medicine are documented in a daunting inventory of expertise called the DACUM Research Chart for Shelter Medicine Specialist. These include detailed knowledge of the following areas:

  • Optimize shelter animal physical health
  • Optimize shelter animal behavioral health
  • Protect community and public health
  • Alleviate companion animal homelessness
  • Address animal cruelty/abuse/neglect
  • Facilitate animal shelter management
  • Serve as a resource on animals and public policy
  • Advance animal shelter medicine


The Road to Board Certification

ABVP logo

In April 2014, the AVMA approved Shelter Medicine Practice as a new specialty within the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. As in other specialties such as internal medicine, ophthalmology, and surgery, the path toward board certification is long and rigorous. In Shelter Medicine, practitioners can earn their credentials to quality for the certifying examination via either a residency or experience in shelter practice.

The first Shelter Medicine Specialists took their certifying examination in 2015. These are definitely exciting times for the career of Shelter Medicine! It is an important step forward for setting higher standards of care for animals in shelters and for spurring additional scientific research into the clinical practice of Shelter Medicine.

To learn more about board certification in the Shelter Medicine Specialty, visit the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and review the ABVP Applicant Handbook.


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Integrating Veterinary Medicine with Shelter Systems Copyright © 2020 by University of Florida is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.