Plan for shelter medicine specialty open for comment

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The AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties is seeking comments regarding the need for a specialty encompassing all aspects of veterinary practice important to the care and management of shelter animals.

This past November, an Association of Shelter Veterinarians committee petitioned the ABVS to recognize shelter medicine under the umbrella of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, which is a recognized veterinary specialty organization. The ABVP currently awards species-specific certification in 10 categories, including beef cattle, feline, and exotic companion mammal practice.

Veterinarians working in animal shelters must possess a range of skills and knowledge beyond what’s required in conventional small animal practices, according to the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.

All RVSOs and recognized veterinary specialties comply with recognition guidelines outlined in the ABVS Policies and Procedures Manual, available online at The ABVS is seeking comments from the public and stakeholders regarding whether identifying shelter medicine as an RVS would fulfill a justifiable need. Individuals are advised to refer to the recognition guidelines when developing their comments.

The practice of veterinary medicine in an animal shelter differs substantially from conventional small animal veterinary practice, according to the committee petition. “Whereas traditional small animal veterinary practice focuses on the individual patient, shelter veterinary practice emphasizes the health of a population while still ensuring individual animal welfare,” the petition states.

“Veterinarians who work with shelters must not only possess medical and surgical skills and knowledge, they also must be capable and willing educators and managers, able to draw from many disciplines to meet the needs of the shelter and community,” the petition continues. “Beyond a conventional veterinary education, a strong background is necessary in areas such as epidemiology, population management and statistical tracking, immunology, infectious disease, behavior, public health, general management and veterinary forensics.”

On its website, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians notes a growing demand for shelter medicine resources. Moreover, most U.S. veterinary colleges have incorporated shelter medicine into their curricula, and several have developed postgraduate internship and residency training programs in the field.

“An RVS in Shelter Medicine Practice within ABVP will provide improved veterinary medical services to the profession and the public by enabling animal shelters to seek specialty services or consultation in Shelter Medicine to optimize care for millions of animals,” the organization states in the petition.

“Likewise, it will also provide the means by which veterinary medical boards, local and state legislatures and other relevant professional organizations can seek veterinarians qualified to offer expert opinions on medical, ethical and paraprofessional service issues and policies related to community animal sheltering.”

Signed comments are due by Sept. 1 and should be sent to David Banasiak, AVMA Education and Research Division, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360, or via e-mail at dbanasiakatavma [dot] org. Questions regarding the recognition guidelines or the proposed new specialty may be directed to Banasiak via e-mail or by phone, (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6677.

Additional information about shelter medicine and the proposed specialty is available at