Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell

Shelter Dogs  

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell


Shelter Medicine

Traditionally, the focus of companion animal veterinary training has been on the health of individual animals. In shelters, large numbers of animals share common sources of air, food, water, living space and caretaker attention, increasing stress and facilitating disease transmission and the development of behavior problems. The health and welfare of the population influences the health and welfare of all individuals and vice versa.

Complete veterinary care of shelter animals requires focused expertise combining elements of epidemiology, infectious disease control, behavior, surgery and shelter mangement. More specifically, the shelter veterinarian must have an expanded understanding in the following areas:

  • shelter facility design and operation
  • husbandry--including housing, nutrition, sanitation and disinfection
  • preventive medicine, including vaccination
  • infectious disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment
  • resource management and risk analysis
  • strategies for control of companion animal overpopulation
  • companion animal welfare
  • behavior evaluation and environmental enrichment
  • animal cruelty investigation
  • public health
  • personnel managment


Shelter medicine veterinarians must also be well versed in legal, regulatory, ethical and emotional aspects of shelter animal care.