Shelter medicine includes all areas of veterinary practice important to the care and management of homeless animals and animals at risk of homelessness. Shelter medicine practitioners must consider the health of the individual animal as well as the entire animal population. They must be knowledgeable in a wide variety of areas, including facility design, operations, animal husbandry, resource management, risk analysis, population management, epidemiology, infectious disease, animal behavior, community outreach, public health, and veterinary forensics, all in addition to traditional medicine and surgery.
Shelter Medicine at the ASPCA®
The ASPCA Shelter Medicine Services (SMS) department works to improve the health and welfare of animals in shelters and communities by strengthening shelter medicine programs, and strategically applying expertise to improve animal health and shelter function. This team of five board-certified veterinarians with over 60 years of combined experience supports the development and implementation of evidence-based shelter medicine principles through such activities as research, publication of resources, and shelter consultations.
The members of the Shelter Medicine Services department also engage in the increasingly robust network of opportunities in shelter medicine education and training - presenting at numerous sheltering and veterinary conferences, including the ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference, teaching veterinary students, and training future shelter medicine specialists through the ASPCA Julie Morris Shelter Medicine Residency Program.
The SMS Team Includes:
- Dr. Stephanie Janeczko, Vice President
- Dr. Chumkee Aziz, Senior Director
- Dr. Brian DiGangi, Senior Director
- Dr. Erin Doyle, Senior Director
- Dr. Elise Gingrich, Senior Director
- Dr. Biana Tamimi, Resident
Shelter Medicine Education
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) formally recognized shelter medicine as a veterinary specialty in 2014, an acknowledgment that veterinarians who work with or for shelters require special knowledge and skills to design a successful shelter health care program. As of 2021, thirty veterinarians are formally recognized Shelter Medicine Specialists in the United States and Canada, with many more shelter veterinarians in the process of achieving board certification in this new and growing specialty.
The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) is the professional organization for shelter veterinarians, consisting of over 1500 members and 20 student chapters from around the globe. In addition to cultivating a community of shelter veterinarians, the ASV publishes position statements, spay/neuter and shelter guidelines, and organizes and creates valuable shelter medicine continuing education.
Most veterinary colleges in the US now include shelter medicine content in their elective and, increasingly, core curricula. Training opportunities for veterinarians continue to expand and include online graduate programs, fellowship opportunities for practicing veterinarians, an increasing number of specialty internships, and residency programs offered through private shelters, national animal welfare organizations, and academic institutions.
Shelter Medicine Achievements
Since its inception as an area of veterinary practice, shelter medicine practitioners have been invaluable contributors to the animal welfare field, including the following achievements:
- Creating and supporting the widespread implementation of shelter health and operational guidelines
- Establishing High-Quality, High-Volume Spay/Neuter (HQHVSN) as a respected field with evidence-based practice guidelines
- Generating new strategies that reduce the impact of infectious diseases like parvovirus, distemper, and ringworm
- Formalizing and championing an approach that considers and addresses all aspects of animals and their needs, medically, behaviorally, and operationally
- Fostering effective population management with techniques like daily rounds, pathway planning, and actively managing capacity for care
- Innovating the shelter’s role in communities through managed intake, kitten nurseries, foster care, community cat programs, and increased access to veterinary care