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Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida 

  • Project Start Date: July 1, 2008
  • Total Funding: $5,179,983
  • Project Duration: Six Years

The College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida received a $5.1M grant to create a comprehensive shelter medicine program that will enhance support for local animal rescue operations, improve disease control and adoption rates among shelter animals and expand professional training to fill the current shortage of skilled providers in this area.

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program is focusing on enhancing the health and welfare of homeless animals through education, innovation and advancement of the lifesaving goals of shelter programs using five central strategies:

Shelter evaluation and extension services including shelter assessments and disease diagnostic, control and prevention services. Consultations identify areas for improvement and provide best practices to optimize a shelter's lifesaving capacity. In the first five years, 14 comprehensive shelter assessments have been conducted at adoption guarantee and open admission shelters throughout Florida and as far away as Illinois and Wisconsin; targeted consultations have been conducted at 18 animal control agencies, adoption guarantee shelters and cat sanctuaries; 71 organizations have been provided with assistance in disease surveillance and outbreak response; and onsite assistance and medical team response was offered for 9 emergency shelter operations (hording, puppy mills and natural disasters).

Advanced training of shelter medical professionals through residency training, internship program, and continuing education. In Years 1 - 3 two residents joined the program who completed their three-year residency in Year 4, when three new residents were welcomed. Residents visit at least 75 shelters that range from adoption guarantee to municipal during the program, and residents participate in on-site consultations alongside shelter medicine faculty and contribute to training veterinary students. The University offers a one-year shelter medicine internship to provide skilled practitioners with specialized training for shelters. In the first five years of the program, two internships have been completed, while one is currently underway. Continuing education is offered through Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Conference and Maddie's® Veterinary Forensics Conference, which garnered over 1,000 attendees in the first five years. In addition, more than 2,000 participants have been reached through presentations made by faculty and residents at veterinary continuing education meetings.

Veterinary student training through shelter medicine core courses, shelter medicine electives, clinical clerkships and externships in adoption guarantee shelters. In the first five years, 9 Shelter Medicine courses have been taught to a total of more than 700 students. In Year 4, three new courses were added: Community Cat Management, Consultations in Shelter Animal Medicine and Recognizing and Responding to Animal Hoarding. Additionally, the newly developed Certificate in Shelter Medicine, currently the most popular certificate program at the College of Veterinary Medicine, provides a valuable credential to students seeking employment in an animal shelter or pursing residency training.

Development of new knowledge through "in shelter" research projects, shelter medicine symposia, continuing education seminars and the development of a shelter medicine website. In the first five years of the program, 17 research projects have been or are currently being conducted by faculty, interns, residents, graduate students and veterinary students affiliated with Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program, while faculty and trainees have authored more than two dozen book chapters and peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Distance Learning Certificate in Shelter Medicine is the key to providing training throughout the country and even internationally to veterinary students and veterinarians so they can begin practicing medicine in the shelter environment. In August 2012, the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida began Maddie's® Online Graduate Certificate with 89 students enrolled. The 9-credit program is an integrated curriculum designed to equip a shelter veterinarian with the tools, knowledge and critical thinking skills to be effective shelter practitioners and advocates for animals in their field.

The University of Florida is located in north-central Florida in the town of Gainesville. It is the state's only veterinary college.