The year 1978 was a good year. I graduated from high school knowing that all I wanted to do was to become a veterinarian and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) was founded. The ABVP advances the quality of veterinary medicine through certification of veterinarians who demonstrate excellence in species-oriented clinical practice. Its diplomats have a common desire to deliver superior, comprehensive and multi-disciplinary veterinary care. Their members demonstrate expertise in a wide range of areas relevant to their practice and are able to communicate observations and data in an organized manner.
Only ten veterinary specialties have been recognized and veterinarians practicing in those fields can achieve certification from ABVP as specialists. The specialties include Canine and Feline Practice as well as Avian, Beef, Dairy, Equine, Food Animal and Exotics. The eleventh specialty to be joining will be Shelter Medicine Practice. The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) appointed a task force almost 10 years ago to explore the development of such a specialty.
This September, Shelter Medicine will begin accepting applications and the first exam will be scheduled for November 2015. The certification process is demanding and requires a thorough mastery of species-oriented practice. The new certification for Shelter Medicine Practice offered by ABVP is recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
It has now been almost thirty years since I graduated from veterinary school and I have been blessed to spend the last ten practicing Shelter Medicine here at the Richmond SPCA. I did not have any training in school for this field and the first actual classes in shelter animal health were not taught until the 1990s. Now the field encompasses shelter design, preventative health care and forensics all in an effort to ensure that our shelter animals have the best care available. Training is now offered at almost every veterinary school. There are externships and residencies as well as hundreds of hours of continuing education every year. The ASV has more than a thousand members including veterinarians and students in chapters at more than 22 veterinary colleges.
What an exciting time for our chosen focus and what an opportunity for the animals in our care. The new specialty can help all shelters by addressing how to optimize the animals’ health both medically and behaviorally, it can facilitate progressive shelter design, it can develop new programs to alleviate companion animal homelessness and address animal cruelty, abuse and neglect as well as serve as a resource on animals and public policy.
I am extremely lucky to have fallen into this aspect of veterinary medicine at this stage in my career. It is an honor to have it recognized now as a specialty. But the bigger honor is the reward of knowing how many animals in our care get permanent loving homes after all of our efforts. I think they already knew what I knew and that is that it was always special.
Dr. Angela Ivey is the director of veterinary medicine at the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.