Comments open: Proposed specialty in clinical wildlife practice

The American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS) has received a letter of intent from a group of veterinarians wishing to seek recognition for a “clinical wildlife practice” specialty within the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. The ABVS will accept public comment on the proposal through July 31, 2024.

The primary purposes of public comment are to gauge both the distinctness of the proposed specialty from currently recognized specialties, and the public need for, and potential acceptance of, a veterinary specialty in the intended facet of veterinary medicine. All comments should be emailed to ABVSatavma [dot] org (ABVS[at]avma[dot]org).

Following is the "Justification for intent to form an American Board of Veterinary Practitioners clinical wildlife practice recognized veterinary specialty” submitted by the group:


Clinical Wildlife Practice (CWP) is the field of veterinary medicine working with wildlife in temporary captivity. It is a critical component of One Health at the intersection of humans and wildlife. CWP is substantially different in knowledge and practice from exotic pet medicine, zoological medicine and wildlife population health as evidenced by the scientific literature as well as circumstances of practice. As such, the organizing committee believes that a CWP recognized veterinary specialty (RVS) dedicated to captive and rehabilitated wildlife should be established, and that the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) should serve as the recognized veterinary specialty organization (RVSO) to oversee this CWP RVS. The ABVP—Clinical Wildlife Practice RVS would target veterinarians working in all sectors that might see wildlife for care, including pet care, zoo and aquarium medicine, exotic pet medicine, academia and research.


The proposed ABVP—Clinical Wildlife Practice RVS will 1) improve services to the public and stakeholders by identifying veterinarians who are knowledgeable and competent in clinical wildlife  practice; 2) continue to support publication of scholarly wildlife medicine and surgery work; 3) continue to provide/develop and support annual continuing veterinary medical education for veterinarians with an interest in clinical wildlife medicine; and 4) continue to work with academic, government, and non-governmental organizations to ensure humane care and welfare of wildlife.

Argument for consideration for ABVS/AVMA recognition as an ABVP RVS

The ABVP currently certifies veterinarians in avian, reptile/amphibian, beef cattle, canine/feline, dairy, equine, exotic companion mammal, feline, fish, food animal practice, swine health management, and shelter medicine. CWP encompasses a greater number of taxa than most of these (including avian, mammal and reptile); many possess similarities, but also unique taxonomic differences that require veterinarians to be knowledgeable in the specialized skill sets of wildlife husbandry, veterinary medical and surgical abilities, conservation, wildlife rehabilitation, One Health implications, and regulatory functions.

The scope of CWP includes animals seen in wildlife rehabilitation; wildlife encountered by humans and requiring intervention; wildlife involved in disasters, oil spills, disease research and surveillance; threatened/endangered species and programs; and wildlife health issues associated with human-wildlife conflict. The clinical presentations of these animals and the goal of returning them to their natural habitat are very different from animals managed in zoos or as non-traditional companion animals. In the U.S. well over 500,000 wild amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are presented to wildlife care facilities each year; each of the over 5,000 federal or state permitted wildlife rehabilitators requires a veterinarian of record. Unlike working with permanently captive wild and non-domestic species, it is critical that these animals be treated and managed in a way that ensures their ability to function normally within their native habitat/ecosystem. The health issues they face are often the direct impact of interactions with human activities or human-altered landscapes, including trauma, environmental contaminants/toxicants, emerging infectious disease, and human-wildlife interactions. Federal and state regulatory agencies rely on the veterinary profession to ensure appropriate veterinary care for the wildlife seen in clinical wildlife practice through establishing regulations requiring veterinarian-of-record relationships and reporting. The creation of an ABVP-CWP RVS would allow the public, general practitioners and state/federal agencies the means to identify veterinarians with the expertise in wildlife medicine providing them with the assurance that they are able to provide wildlife with the most humane care and best welfare possible.