Working Towards a Recognized Veterinary Specialty in Shelter Medicine
The proposed specialty of Shelter Medicine Practice includes all aspects of veterinary practice important to the care and management of shelter animals. Mastering this specialty requires a broad-based approach inclusive of community considerations and encompasses all aspects of healthcare ranging from the physical and behavioral health of shelter animals to the environmental health of the shelter facility.
In order to control infectious disease and promote health and wellness in shelter populations, Shelter Medicine specialists must have an expanded understanding of shelter facility design and operation; husbandry (including population level housing, nutrition, sanitation and behavioral care); resource management and risk analysis. Beyond a conventional veterinary education, success in this field requires a strong background in areas such as epidemiology, statistics, companion animal population management, immunology, infectious disease, animal behavior, public health, and veterinary forensics.
Establishing a specialty in Shelter Medicine has been several years in the making and has been marked by numerous milestones along the way:
2005 – The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) forms a task force to explore the development of a specialty in Shelter Medicine. A letter of intent is sent to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS).
2006 – Task force representatives attend the annual ABVS meeting at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, IL and learn that conducting a professional job task analysis is the first crucial step to define the duties and skills required of a Shelter Medicine specialist and ensure that it is indeed a distinct and identifiable specialty of veterinary medicine.
2007 – Eleven Shelter Medicine veterinarians meet in Orlando, FL with facilitators from the Ohio State University Center on Education and Training to draft the job task analysis.
2008 – Results of the job task analysis are validated through a survey of the ASV membership. Faculty members representing 9 different veterinary colleges form a Residency Standards Task Force to develop standards for residency training in Shelter Medicine.
2009 – The ASV officially appoints an organizing committee for a specialty in Shelter Medicine.
2010 – Under the advisement of the ABVS, organizing committee members explore options of existing under a parent organization including the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP), the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
2011 – Organizing committee members conduct surveys of veterinary curricula through the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, surveys of shelter practitioners through the Veterinary Information Network, and surveys of the ASV membership regarding their interest in certification. The committee’s research culminates in a decision to pursue development of a Shelter Medicine specialty under the auspices of the ABVP .
2012 – A formal petition for a recognized veterinary specialty is created and presented to the ABVP’s Council of Regents (COR). The ABVP COR votes to accept the petition and forwards it to the ABVS’s Committee on New Specialty Development (CNSD).
December 2012 - The petition is reviewed by the CNSD and found to be complete. In accordance with ABVS policy, comments will be solicited from the public and interested stakeholders regarding how recognition of Shelter Medicine as a specialty will fill a distinct need in veterinary medicine. The full petition is available through the AVMA ABVS website . Public comment will be solicited through the AVMA ABVS website until September 1, 2013.
Following the period of public comment, the CDNS will review all comments and forward them to the ABVS, which will then vote on provisional recognition of the specialty in early 2014. If approved by the ABVS, the next step is review by the AVMA Council on Education (COE). If approved by the COE, the petition will then be forwarded to the AVMA House of Delegates for a final vote in August 2014. If the AVMA approves the petition, then credentialing applications would be accepted in the same year with the first certification exam for Shelter Medicine Practice offered in 2015.
To view the Job Task Analysis and Requirements for Professional Knowledge and Skills, see appendices C and F of the Petition. These reports can be accessed by clicking on the hyperlinks in the Table of Contents of the formal document.