Shelter Medicine

In This Section

About Shelter Medicine
Challenges in the Shelter
The Veterinarian's Role
Who’s Right for the Job

"The rewarding work being performed by shelter veterinarians has had a profound impact on the entire veterinary profession, generating widespread interest in students and practitioners to help achieve more positive outcomes for both animals and people."
-Dr. Lila Miller, DVM, Vice President, ASPCA Shelter Medicine

Checklist for ASV Guidelines

See at a glance where your shelter meets or exceeds standards or where improvement is needed.

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Who Makes an Effective Shelter Veterinarian?

In addition to being very observant and skilled clinicians, shelter veterinarians must have excellent management and communication skills – at the same time they must be able to withstand criticism for making difficult treatment, adoption and euthanasia decisions.

Shelter veterinarians must be innovative, strong and independent thinkers, since they can be at odds with veterinary colleagues who may criticize them for performing non-traditional procedures.

Creative diagnostic and unorthodox treatment regimens must often be utilized because of the unique circumstances frequently encountered and the lack of access to more conventional methods.

However, just as second opinions are valued in private practice settings, shelter veterinarians should be encouraged to seek out and accept second opinions from other shelter medicine experts without being stigmatized or accused of incompetence.

A Lifetime Career

The situations encountered by shelter veterinarians are not found in any other area of veterinary medicine. Shelter medicine is no longer a place where retired veterinarians wind up their careers or new veterinarians start before moving on to private practice.

Shelter medicine represents a new and rewarding lifetime career option that is destined to grow as more humane alternatives and options are sought for the world's homeless animals.

The ASPCA is hiring! See what jobs are available that match your skills.


Read the overview of shelter medicine

Read about characteristics and challenges of the shelter environment

Read about veterinary input to shelter programs and operations