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Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University 

  • Project Start Date: September 1, 2005
  • Funding through Year Ten: $3,495,313

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University offers training to graduate veterinarians (at the internship level) and veterinary students, as well as medical and behavioral outreach to shelters, and is involved in non-invasive shelter medicine research. The program prepares veterinarians and veterinary students to provide optimal care to homeless animals and to become leaders in their communities, advocating for the elimination of the killing of healthy and treatable animals. By training a new generation of veterinarians and shelter staff to address the unique challenges of keeping shelter animals physically and emotionally healthy, the Program impacts shelters and the health of homeless animals throughout the U.S.

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Internship
The one-year internship provides basic training in the maintenance of health of shelter animals at the individual and population level, management of endemic and epidemic disease, and training and experience with high quality, high volume spay/neuter techniques. Interns work primarily in local animal shelters (both traditional and adoption guarantee) with an experienced clinician to deliver care to shelter animals, as well as consult on best shelter practices and strategies to save lives, appropriate disease management, and the reduction of pet homelessness. Training locally is supplemented with externships at other regional animal shelters employing staff veterinarians. Interns participate in shelter medicine and other relevant seminars, journal clubs and shelter medicine rounds (often leading the discussions). Interns assist in the supervision of veterinary students in the Community Practice Service at local shelters, and provide lectures in the shelter medicine elective courses. Learning occurs by example, by hands-on experience, by case and shelter discussion, by instruction of students, and by attendance at teaching rounds and seminars. The shelter medicine internship works to enhance the visibility of shelter medicine and elevate its status in the veterinary profession.

Veterinary Student Training
Veterinary students attend shelter medicine-oriented lectures in core classes and in multiple elective shelter medicine courses, participate in student externships, research projects, weekly shelter visits and in-shelter rounds. The students work with shelters to understand the shelter environment, how veterinarians deal with medical and behavioral issues in shelters and learn lifesaving strategies. Students may also enroll in a 2 week shelter medicine ambulatory service that travels to local shelters providing care and continuing education for shelter staff. The Shelter Medicine Club holds Program-supervised clinics for its members at the SPCA of Tompkins County two times monthly, and students can volunteer to participate on the "on-call list" to deliver veterinary care on an as-needed basis (e.g., hoarding case). Veterinary students now also provide spay/neuter surgeries to 4 regional shelters through the CPS surgical service. Exposing all students to shelter medicine issues before graduation has lead to the development of a new generation of veterinarians with fresh approaches to the medical and behavioral care of homeless animals and to pet overpopulation and their role in seeking solutions to it.

Shelter Medicine Outreach
Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell disseminates information to animal shelters and offers a variety of services to them. These services include regional lectures, in-shelter evaluations and responses to particular problems, email and telephone consultations, an annual shelter medicine conference and an ambulatory service delivering individual and population level care at the SPCA of Tompkins County and other local shelters. Shelter Medicine faculty, interns and veterinary students participate in community wellness initiatives both locally and in Syracuse. They offer subsidized services to low income residents, helping to keep pets healthy and in their homes. The Program also reaches out to the sheltering community through contributions to national textbooks, published research, the Program website and a monthly newsletter, Shelter Watch.

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Research Program
Non invasive shelter medicine research on everything from parasite prevalence to infectious diseases in shelter populations has greatly improved the training and service aspects of the shelter medicine program. Current projects include studies of: factors associated with weight changes in shelters, usage of GIS for targeted spay/neuter, the success of barn cat relocations, and a survey of clients of subsidized spay/neuter clinics.

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Staff
The Program is headed by three faculty and staffed by a licensed veterinary technician, a program coordinator and two shelter medicine interns.

Improving the Status of Shelter Medicine
Maddie's® Shelter Medicine faculty members participated in the development of Shelter Medicine Residency Training Standards and continue to participate in the development of a shelter medicine specialty.