American Board of Veterinary Specialties

An Advisory Board on Veterinary Specialties was established by the House of Delegates in 1959, upon recommendation of the AVMA Council on Education®. The name was changed to the American Board of Veterinary Specialties in 1992.

The criteria for recognizing veterinary specialty organizations were first established in 1951. These criteria were revised and expanded in 1969, 1981, 1985, 1988, and annually since 1990. They are currently represented in the AVMA Guidelines for the Establishment and Recognition of Veterinary Specialty Organizations. ABVS is charged with implementing these guidelines.


  • Following review of appropriate information, determine whether a proposed specialty organization fills a recognizable need, represents a distinct area of specialization in veterinary medicine, and whether a sufficient number of qualified and interested veterinarians exist to form a new recognized veterinary specialty organization (RVSO), or a recognized veterinary specialty (RVS) within a currently existing RVSO.
  • Review petitions from organizations seeking AVMA recognition to determine if the essential standards for recognition established by the ABVS are fulfilled.
  • Receive and review three-year reports from all fully recognized AVMA-RVSOs and their RVSs (or their independent certification boards) to ensure continued compliance with standards established by the ABVS for recognition of veterinary specialty organizations.
  • Receive and review one-year follow-up reports on any RVSOs required to submit such in response to issues identified by the ABVS.
  • Annually receive information on RVSO/RVS membership and candidate demographics.
  • Receive and review annual reports from all provisionally recognized RVSOs and RVSs to ensure continued compliance, and continued progress towards full recognition as a specialty.

Membership, method of appointment, and representation

The ABVS shall consist of 12 voting members as follows:

  • Four individuals who are members of, and appointed by, the AVMA Veterinary Specialty Organizations Committee (VSOC), to have staggered term start and end dates.  Only one representative from the same RVSO may serve as a member at any given time. Alternates will be recognized by the ABVS and may attend and vote at the meeting in the absence of the person they are attending for.
  • Four individuals representing the non-specialty AVMA membership appointed by the AVMA BOD, including two representing veterinary clinical practice, one representing non-clinical practice, and one at-large position—Individuals must not be board certified and cannot be part of an organizing committee for a newly forming specialty or seeking diplomate status.
  • One individual appointed by and representing the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC)
  • One individual appointed by and representing the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB)
  • One psychometrician or individual with extensive expertise in credentialing and certification activities identified by the ABVS
  • One public member identified by the ABVS


  • Other than the AAVSB, psychometrician or credentialing expert, and public member positions, nominees to serve on the ABVS must be AVMA members in good standing.
  • Nominees for all positions must fulfill all requirements for the position during the duration of appointment, understand the assignment and be willing to serve.
  • Appointments for all voting members are for terms of four years beginning at the close of the annual session of the AVMA House of Delegates, which is held in conjunction with the AVMA annual meeting.
  • ABVS members may serve non-consecutive, four-year terms.
  • The public member is appointed by the ABVS when a vacancy exists, for a four-year term that begins at the close of the AVMA Annual Convention. The public member may serve a maximum of one term. Criteria used in the selection of public members specify that they shall not be a veterinarian, a current or former employee of any business related to veterinary medicine, or currently or formerly affiliated with any recognized or petitioning organization or another constituent group represented on the ABVS.
  • If a position other than the public member or psychometrician positions remains vacant for 12 consecutive months, it will be advertised as an at-large veterinary position for appointment by the AVMA Board of Directors for the remainder of the term of the original vacancy, after which it will revert to its original categorization.
  • If an ABVS member from the VSOC is unable to complete their four-year term of appointment due to RVSO term limits or for any other reason, a suitable replacement will be chosen from the full VSOC membership.
  • One AVMA BOD member shall serve as liaison to the ABVS.


The ABVS shall elect a chair and vice-chair annually from among its members.


The ABVS will convene one in-person meeting at the AVMA headquarters annually and meet by electronic means as necessary throughout the year. A quorum of 3/4 of the appointed membership or voting alternates must be present and the decision decided by a simple majority of the vote.

The ABVS annual meeting is open to any interested AVMA member subject to approval of the ABVS chair. Executive sessions during the ABVS annual meeting may be called by the chair at his/her discretion. During executive session, all guests will be excused from the meeting.


The AVMA reimburses all expenses associated with attendance at meetings of the ABVS for members or, in the event that a member cannot attend, their alternate. The AVMA shall provide staff support and a suitable meeting space for this entity.


The ABVS shall have autonomous authority to establish standards used for evaluation of organizations conducting credentialing and board-certification in a distinct field of veterinary medicine and to make decisions regarding recognition of those organizations as veterinary specialties.

Life expectancy

The ABVS will be reviewed in compliance with AVMA governance policies.