Module 1: Introduction

Two neonatal tabby kittens lay on a blanket


Welcome to the rewarding world of Shelter Medicine! Shelter Medicine is an emerging field of veterinary specialization supported by rapidly increasing career opportunities. This book uses a case-based approach to explore the critical role played by the entire shelter team to protect the health and welfare of sheltered dogs and cats and how medical care, behavior programs, and operations all come together under the umbrella of Shelter Medicine. Readers will learn about the vast opportunities to join the community of Shelter Medicine, how to follow trends in the field, and to build lifelong professional networks.

According to the Association of Shelter Veterinarians,

“Shelter Medicine is a field of veterinary medicine dedicated to the care of homeless animals in shelters or other facilities dedicated to finding them new homes. While private practice veterinarians focus mainly on the health care of individual animals with owners, shelter veterinarians provide a unique blend of individual and population level care for homeless animals, including a strong focus on physical and behavioral wellness. Caring responsibly for a shelter population presents challenges rarely faced in private practice. Many of the animals entering shelters arrive with little to no medical history and may be stray, feral, or victims of cruelty. Arriving from many locations with different life experiences and exposure histories makes this a population at higher risk for infectious diseases and problem behaviors. This is compounded by high-density housing and the stress associated with confinement, making proper behavioral care a crucial part of shelter animal health.”

Textbook Learning Objectives

  1. Use the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters as a guide for the practice of veterinary medicine in a shelter environment.
  2. Develop population management practices that optimize animal wellbeing and best outcomes for homeless and sheltered animals.
  3. Employ evidence-based medicine and best practices to develop cost-effective preventive healthcare, biosecurity, and public health measures.
  4. Prioritize situational urgency and respond appropriately to common health threats, animal welfare issues, and animal abuse.
  5. Analyze recent trends, issues, and epidemiology related to animal homelessness, and identify rational and culturally competent strategies to address these.
  6. Apply key concepts crucial to the practice of Shelter Medicine, including the Five Domains of Animal Welfare, Fear Free principles, capacity for care, high quality high volume spay-neuter, and One Health.
  7. Monitor employment opportunities for veterinarians in Shelter Medicine and analyze the training and experience needed for success in such positions.
  8. Integrate factors such as time management, team leadership, workplace safety, and personal wellness associated with career satisfaction of the entire veterinary team.
  9. Adapt written and oral communication and leadership styles in interactions with shelter personnel and professional peers.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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.