top of page
  • Writer's pictureSusan Houser

Book Review: Shelter Medicine Text

The specialty of shelter medicine, which has grown at a fast pace from its beginnings 16 years ago, is critical to No Kill. Shelter medicine has been key not just to medical treatment of the treatables, but also to reducing shelter stress through housing and enrichment, fixing behavior problems, preventing disease, designing shelter buildings, and developing programs for shelter flow-through and capacity control. It is no accident that No Kill and shelter medicine have grown in parallel over the last 16 years.

The field of shelter medicine is growing so fast that it’s hard to keep up. But one way to get a good grounding in the subject is to read “Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff,” Second Edition (2013), edited by Lila Miller and Stephen Zawistowski.

Dr. Miller, who is often referred to as the founder of shelter medicine, was the first African-American woman to graduate from Cornell’s veterinary college, at a time (1977) when the profession was beginning to diversify. She, along with Dr. Jan Scarlett, taught the first formal class in shelter medicine at Cornell in 1999. Dr. Miller was a co-founder of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) in 2001. She co-wrote the textbook “Infectious Disease Management in Animal Shelters” with Dr. Kate Hurley. She has been with the ASPCA since 1977, and is its director of veterinary outreach. In 2008 she received the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Award, and in 2014 she received the ASV Meritorious Achievement Award.

Dr. Zawistowski has a PhD in behavior and genetics from the University of Illinois. He has written, co-written, or edited several books in addition to the shelter medicine text, including a history of the ASPCA (“Heritage of Care”) and a textbook about companion animals (“Companion Animals in Society”). His research work has been published in several journals and he is a founder and co-editor of the “Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.” He has served for many years as Science Advisor to the ASPCA, and is a well-known speaker on animal welfare subjects. He was a founder and officer of the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy.

Their textbook lists 51 contributors, including Dr. Kate Hurley, Dr. Julie Levy, and Dr. Jan Scarlett. It has an 80-page introductory section that includes articles on shelter statistics, design, management, and legal issues, among other topics. Following are sections on husbandry, infectious disease, animal cruelty, shelter programs, behavior, and sterilization. Individual articles cover everything from stress and quality of life for shelter animals to population management to wildlife and equine care to animal hoarding to foster care to behavior enrichment to community cat management to pediatric neutering, along with all the other topics you would expect in a shelter medicine text.

Although this text is written for shelter veterinarians and staff, it has lots of valuable information for anyone who is interested in shelter issues. People who are trying to reform shelters from the outside may not always realize the complexity of issues that shelters face in trying to save animals. The sections on proper care of the various species found in animal shelters covers almost 200 pages, for example. The spay-neuter section is over 100 pages. The chapter on foster care shows not only how valuable foster programs are but how many factors must be considered in setting up and running foster programs. The extensive section on disease control shows the planning and constant vigilance that is required to keep animals healthy in the shelter environment.

The cost for this textbook is modest given its size and the amount of information it contains. As a non-professional, I learned a lot about the intricacies of modern shelter management from it, and would recommend it for anyone who is interested in shelter issues. Animal shelter management is a field that is changing at dizzying speed, and this textbook provides a good way to get an overview of the issue.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page