Areas of Study in Shelter Medicine

An Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) task force defined the key areas of study for shelter medicine. These topics are essential to the work of the shelter veterinarian and are similar to the framework of content included for Board Certification in Shelter Medicine which is through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP)

Animal Behavior

  • General Principles
  • Treatment Plans
  • Behavioral Evaluations
  • Enrichment

Business and Leadership

  • Non profit management
  • Understanding Budgeting


  • Outbreak Investigation and Response
  • Population Management
  • Capacity for Care
  • Statistics to Assess Impacts of Policy


  • Technical Aspects
  • Grief Counseling
  • Compassion Fatigue
  • Ethical, Legal and Policy Aspects

History and Philosophy of Animal Shelters

  • Understanding of Different Shelter Models
  • Adoption Programs
  • Role of Rescues
  • Resources for Personnel
  • Shelter Management Software
  • Public Relations
  • Transport Programs

Humane Education

  • Community Education about Pet Ownership, Preventative Health Care and Population Control

Legal and Policy Issues

  • Anti-cruelty Laws
  • National Statutes
  • Veterinary Forensics
  • Animal Welfare


  • Infectious Disease Pathogenesis and Prevention
  • Quarantine Procedures
  • Diagnosis and Treatment of individual animals

Preventative Care

  • Vaccinations: General Principles
  • Principles of Herd and Maternal Immunity
  • Prophylactic Regimes

Public Health

  • Rabies and Other Zoonotic Diseases
  • Education and Outreach
  • Animal Hoarding
  • Disaster Planning

Reproductive Control and Surgical Expertise

  • High-volume/High-quality Spay/Neuter Techniques
  • Prepubertal Sterilization
  • Feral Cat Sterilization
  • Understanding of Developments in Immunocontraception and Chemical Contraception

Welfare in the Shelter Environment

  • Role of Quality of Life
  • Welfare Assessments for Shelters and Sanctuaries