Interim Guidelines from the AVMA and CDC regarding shelter intake for COVID-exposed animals, a summary*

At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, are involved in the transmission of COVID-19 to people. Whenever possible, animals should be left in the care of their owners unless circumstances such as hospitalization and lack of a caretaker require admission of the animal to the shelter.

General Principles:

Removing animals from COVID-19 affected homes:

  • Whenever possible, companion animals should be kept with their owners. This serves to support the human animal bond as well as to protect against overwhelming animal shelters and compromising humane care in shelters.
  • If animal care workers need to enter an infected person’s home to recover animals, they should follow the most up-to-date guidance from health departments and the CDC.
  • If animals need to be removed from the home, minimal contact between people should occur.

Intake into the shelter:

  • Reusable, washable PPE is advised over garments (cloth labcoats, coveralls) along with gloves for performing standard intake procedures.
  • Hands should be washed with soap and water after removing gloves.
  • Standard disinfectants should be used to sanitize spaces
  • There is no need to bathe animals due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • At this time, there is no evidence that the disease spreads through fur. However, use precautions including minimal handling, hand-washing, and not having close contact with animals during intake procedures.

Housing and care in the shelter:

  • Double-sided housing is strongly recommended to minimize daily handling during cleaning.
  • Enclosures should be spot cleaned when needed.
  • Animals from COVID-19 exposed homes should be housed in a species-specific ward separate from other animals. This is being done out on an abundance of caution for human and animal health, but at this time the risk of these pets to people and other animals appears very low.
  • Standard PPE (washable coveralls, boots, gloves) should be worn when cleaning these housing areas. Reusable, washable PPE solutions are advised over disposable to preserve PPE.
  • Frequent hand-washing is advised.
  • Dogs should be walked regularly and provided with enrichment, but in an area separate from other dogs.
  • Staff handling should be limited and not involve close or prolonged contact.

Returning pets to owners:

  • Reunions should occur as quickly as feasible.
  • Animals should be housed for 14 days prior to transfer to a new home.

COVID-19 testing for animals

  • Neither the CDC, USDA, nor AVMA recommends routine testing for COVID-19 for animals. If there is a question regarding testing for a companion animal, it should be directed to the state public health veterinarian or designated health official.

*the full document can be found here :

Transport and movement of animals during the COVID-19 pandemic (4/1/2020)

Transport and movement of animals during the COVID-19 pandemic

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, University of California- Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, Humane Canada, The Association for Advancement of Animal Welfare, Association of Shelter Veterinarians, Ontario Shelter Medicine Association and the Association Vétérinaire  Québécoise de Médicine de Refuge endorse the following statement and recommendations for animal movement by shelters, agencies and rescues during the COVID-19 pandemic.*

NOTE: Every exception to social distancing decreases its efficacy.

Implement social distancing in effort to decrease the rate of human patients in need of hospitalization and critical care. The key request coming from our governments and health advisors is for people to stay at home and limit travel, with exceptions made only for the minimum needed to carry out essential functions.


  • Discontinue travel outside of your community  for routine transport.
  • Transport should not be utilized as a means to continue non-emergency shelter intake. All shelters, including transport source shelters, should limit intake to only emergency situations (e.g. sick, injured, dangerous, or endangered).
  • Transport should only be considered when a source shelter lacks the capacity to provide appropriate care for an animal that has been admitted on an emergency basis.
  • Before transporting animals, makes sure all opportunities to find care for them within the community have been exhausted. Transfer between shelters in the same community and delivery for foster care or adoption is encouraged because it promotes live releases while maintaining recommended social distancing guidelines.
  • If local options have been exhausted, transport partners should observe the same precautions for maintaining social distancing and limiting personnel exposure as have been developed for release of animals to adoption, foster etc.
  • DO NOT transport to states or communities that have specific travel restrictions. Be respectful of COVID-19 related orders in each state and municipality.
  • Not every service or function of a shelter is essential. It is our obligation to reduce our activities.

When intake is decreased to emergencies only, the capacity to find a lifesaving outcome within the community is increased. This is why it is so essential to follow NACA guidelines for intake reduction and call response.

*This is a summary of a document that can found in full at

For additional resources on responsible transport for emergency situations, refer to


An open letter to friends in animal welfare and veterinary medicine about what is “essential”

Dr. Elizabeth Berliner, Director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University.

The running “joke” in my family is I will undoubtedly meet my demise responding to an animal in need.  A few months into dating, my husband witnessed his first event: I threw myself out of the driver’s seat and into the middle of a dark, curvy two-lane road to save a juvenile Great Horned Owl I had hit with my car. That event was soon followed by equally harrowing reactions to a hawk on the side of a highway, a deer in need of euthanasia in the snow, and any number of stray dogs and cats that frequently caused me to screech my day, and his, to a halt. (He married me anyway.) As a shelter veterinarian, I pretty much make daily choices that prioritize animals over people, even while I know the two cannot be detached in our culture and in our work.

In the face of COVID-19, guidelines are coming out from various animal welfare, veterinary, and public health groups, all working incredibly hard to use limited science and policy to make overarching recommendations.  Many of these recommendations go against our practices of more “normal” times – stop performing spay/neuter, stop transporting animals, stop TNR/SNR of stray cats, stop having vaccination clinics. (Whatttt?) Most of these recommendations make ALL of us uncomfortable and unhappy.  As someone who always prefers to mitigate risk rather than follow tight rules, I find myself constantly attempting to parse out exceptions. I know many of you are doing the same.  We want to keep saving animals in the face of tremendous human suffering, and we are often willing to put ourselves and others in harm’s way to do it.

For many regions of the country, including right here in Upstate NY, the pandemic is not at its peak yet. People in animal welfare see this as a call to keep pushing.  I’ve heard many animal care personnel comment they don’t really see the risk or need for a change in current practice in their community – and meanwhile the numbers of COVID-19 cases (and deaths) in our rural areas continue to rise. In Central NY we lie only a few hours from the epicenter of the pandemic, and our neighbors are dying.

Here’s the thing: there is no perfect way to “win” at this situation. And a portion of our truly essential work inevitably puts us at risk, in spite of all of our mitigation. However, the vast majority of activities we continue to do in the name of life-saving in shelters and practices are not truly emergent.  Spay/neuter can be delayed until after adoption. Vaccination boosters are not urgent for animals in stable and safe foster homes. Stray cats doing well in the community can continue to be supported in the community. Every animal entering a shelter creates another point of daily care and puts shelter personnel at risk. And most of the animals are doing very well right where they are, as long as it is not in an overcrowded and understaffed shelter facility.  Undoubtedly, suspending many of the activities we’ve utilized to improve animal welfare in our communities means we have challenging work ahead of us (read u.g.h. kitten season) when it becomes time to “recover” from this event. We will meet that challenge, as we always do.

My ultimate guiding principle for how to keep people safe during this pandemic is this: if performing a procedure or treatment requires a compromise in social distancing AT ALL, for any of our humans (including ourselves), that procedure or treatment must represent an urgent situation which is causing or will cause immense pain or suffering or loss of life for an animal who could otherwise be reasonably saved.  If it does not represent that level of intervention, then I need to reconsider doing it.

I’m trying to hold myself accountable. You should too.

Be safe, my friends.


as always, #ThankstoMaddie

Event recap: Our 1st shelter medicine mini-conference was a success!

Our 1st biannual shelter medicine mini-conference was a success! On the afternoon of Friday, November 22nd, the 2019 Fall Cornell Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Mini-Conference took place at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. Organized by Sarah Nickerson, MSMP’s Program Coordinator, this half-day workshop brought together over 40 staff members and volunteers from 12 different regional shelters to discuss “Sheltering by Numbers: Using Metrics to Save Lives”.

Shelter Medicine faculty, along with MSMP Program Founder, Dr. Jan Scarlett, each led 45-minute presentations on different topics relating to metrics and the use of data in shelters. Dr. Berliner (Director of Shelter Medicine) opened the workshop with a presentation on the importance of one day in the shelter for an animal, and ways to move them through shelters faster while still ensuring they have all they need in the process. Next, Dr. Lena DeTar (Assistant Clinical Professor) guided attendees through simple formulas to identify where shelters might be stretched (staffing, surgical budget, capacity for care, etc.) or have the ability to provide more. Dr. Jan Scarlett (Founder of Cornell’s Shelter Medicine Program) followed Dr. DeTar, sharing her knowledge of what reports matter in the shelter setting, and why they matter. She focused on metrics that can be most influential in monitoring and helping to improve the health of shelter animals. To wrap up the afternoon, our newest faculty member, Dr. Erin Henry (Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Instructor), talked about the importance of organizational charts, getting attendees up on their feet to create and describe the org charts for each of their organizations. As can be seen in the photo below, this was a crowd favorite with personnel from each organization working together to map out the structure of each of their organizations. Way to go Team MSMP at Cornell!

Attendees of the 2019 fall Cornell Maddie's Shelter Medicine Mini-Conference work together to create their org charts.

Attendees of the 2019 Fall Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Mini-Conference work together to create their org charts.

Our 2nd mini-conference is scheduled to take place in the Spring, on April 3rd, 2020. Be sure to save the date! We will be discussing adoption outcomes. Registration for this event will open in early March. If you would like to be added to the CU Shelter Med Mini-Conference mailing list, please email Sarah Nickerson (Shelter Medicine Program Coordinator) at

(Story and photos provided by Sarah Nickerson)


Summer Recap!

The summer is flying by! We have been busy running spay neuter clinics, providing consultations to shelters, bringing our 2 new interns into the swing of things, and preparing for the start of a new round of Spayathon for Puerto Rico, the start of the new academic year here at the college, and our new Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Mini-Conferences that are scheduled to start this Fall. Here is a brief recap of our summer.

2019 Shelter Medicine Ineterns, Wesley Cheung and Sarah Ericksen at TCSPCA_JUL19

Drs. Wesley Cheung and Sarah Ericksen    (2019 interns) at the Tompkins County SPCA, July 2019

In July, we hosted the 16thannual ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference, providing high-quality education to improve the quality of life for animals. This was the first year the conference was held in the newly renovated Schurman Hall here at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. The facilities were perfect and nearly 500 veterinary, animal shelter, and spay/neuter professionals were in attendance. Thank you to Maddie’s Fund®, ASPCA, and Cornell!

We have been busy providing spay/neuter for community cats of Cornell University faculty, staff, and students through our CornellVetCares Community Cat Clinic. We served 16 cats at our August 2 clinic with all hands on deck! Three Cornell veterinary students volunteered their time with us and even our Shelter Medicine Program Coordinator, Sarah Nickerson, joined in, providing support in recovery and help with records. Our next clinic will be held on August 23rd. We are already almost at capacity for this clinic, with 21 cats already registered! We will hold 3 more clinics in 2019 on September 20th, October 18th, and November 22nd.

The first of our new Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Mini-Conferences is scheduled for the afternoon of November 15, 2019. These half-day workshops are open to all shelter staff, veterinarians, technicians, management, board members, etc. Registration for the Fall 2019 conference will open soon.


November 15, 2019      (12:00pm to 4:30pm)

Fall 2019 Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Mini-Conference

Sheltering by Numbers: Using Your Data to Save Lives
Location: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, NY

Hosted by Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell. #thankstomaddie


If you have any questions or comments about infromation, feel free to email Sarah Nickerson, Shelter Medicine Program Coordinator, at

Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer and keep your eyes out for exciting announcements coming soon from Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell!


Sarah Nickerson
Program Coordinator
Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program
College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University

On the road again: MSMP provides onsite consultation services for regional animal shelters

Drs. Henry (Shelter Medicine Instructor), Gallegos (2019 MSMP intern), and Fischer-Daly (2019 MSMP intern)

Drs. Henry (Shelter Medicine Instructor), Gallegos (2019 MSMP intern), and Fischer-Daly (2019 MSMP intern)


On the road again….

Drs. Henry, Gallegos, and Fischer-Daly are on the road this week, providing consultation services to a regional animal shelter who has invited them to better manage their population and increase life-saving. They will spend several days onsite, reviewing everything from animal flow-through, adoption methods, to touring facilities and interviewing staff.

Before our team even arrives at a shelter for an onsite consultation, we ask managers to fill out an in-depth set of questionnaires. This information aids our veterinarians in getting to know the struggles, questions, capabilities, and individual characteristics specific to each shelter. It also helps us target specific problem areas and make the best use of our time while there.

Drs. Henry, Gallegos, and Fischer-Daly will present their preliminary findings to shelter staff and the shelter’s board of directors. Then, back in their offices at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, they will write up a comprehensive report with all of their findings and recommendations for the shelter. Shelters can use these reports to help secure grants, make policy or protocol changes, and design optimal sheltering facilities for the populations they serve.

To learn more about options for consultation with MSMP at Cornell, visit our website .

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Sarah Nickerson, Shelter Medicine Program Coordinator, at . Thank you!

What’s next?: Outgoing ’19 MSMP intern, Dr. Mackenzie Gallegos, plans to return home to help care for Houston’s homeless pets!

Dr. Mackenzie Gallegos ('19 MSMP intern) completes a puppy's medical chart at a Spayathon for Puerto Rico clinic.

Dr. Gallegos completes medical records for a puppy at a Spayathon for Puerto clinic.

Dr. Gallegos discussed records with CU vet student, Renee Staffeld ('20)

Dr. Gallegos discusses records with CU veterinary student, Renee Staffeld, at a Schuyler County Wellness Clinic led by MSMP at Cornell.

Dr. Gallegos ('19 MSMP intern) performs a solo spay surgery at a CornellVet Cares Community Cat Clinic.

Dr. Gallegos performs a solo spay surgery during a CornellVet Cares Community Cat Clinic led by MSMP at Cornell.








As I reflect on my year with the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell, I think of my “last minute” decision to apply for a shelter internship after seeing Dr. Elizabeth Berliner speak at the annual ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference. After listening to her lecture, I knew I needed to learn everything I could from Dr. Berliner. Luckily, I was accepted to this internship and was able to learn from the entire MSMP team and the amazing staff at the SPCA of Tompkins County. Before the internship, I could talk shelter medicine; now, I actually understand the concepts that encompass this diverse field and know how to apply them to any shelter I walk into.

Through the internship, I became a confident surgeon and clinician. Working at TSPCA each day allowed me to understand not only the medical side of sheltering, but experience the management and operations on a daily basis. My favorite aspect was participating in shelter consultations throughout New York State. Consulting with other shelters allowed a glimpse at the diversity of shelters out there. It also allowed critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to improve the lives of animals and people in the sheltering world. Ultimately, working alongside extraordinary mentors, teachers, and friends made the internship an unforgettable experience.

Next, I am heading back home to Houston to work with various shelters in the area. Like many shelters in the southern United States, Houston struggles with a large population of homeless animals and a variety of infectious diseases. I feel well equipped to handle these challenges and hopefully can make a positive impact on this community that is near and dear to my heart.

– Dr. Mackenzie Gallegos (2019 Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Intern)

What’s next for Dr. Fischer-Daly?

2019 MSMP Intern, Sabine Fischer-Daly DVM, talks about her internship experience and plans for the future

Sabine Fischer-Daly DVM ('18 Shelter Medicine Intern) examines a dog at a Spayathon for Puerto Rico clinic

Sabine Fischer-Daly DVM (2019 Janet L. Swanson Intern of Shelter Medicine) examines a dog at a Spayathon for Puerto Rico clinic led by MSMP at Cornell.

My internship year with Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell brought me so many unique learning opportunities and experiences. Thanks to a wonderfully supportive team, the internship provided me the tools and experience to effectively and efficiently manage care of individual shelter animals and the shelter population as a whole. I had the opportunity to participate in a variety of outreach programs, in communities as far away as Puerto Rico and as near as our neighboring counties here in New York’s Southern Tier. I was able to travel to animal shelters throughout the Northeast to participate in comprehensive shelter consultations led by MSMP at Cornell, providing strategies for improvement of shelter management and animal care. Being able to visit a variety of shelters, large and small, rural and urban distinguished this internship and made for a remarkable learning experience.

Next I am headed West to work as the Community Wellness and Shelter Veterinarian at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, in Colorado Springs. There I will provide care for animals at the shelter, conduct public spay and neuter, and provide wellness to pets of low-income owners via a mobile unit. I look forward to applying what I’ve learned as a Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program intern to this exciting work.

Last but not least, I must add that the MSMP faculty provided exceptional mentorship. With apparent ease, they provided appropriate support along the way and challenged my intern mate, Dr. Mackenzie Gallegos, and I to sharpen our skills. I cannot thank them enough for this year of growth as a shelter veterinarian.

– Sabine Fischer-Daly DVM (2019 MSMP Shelter Medicine Intern)

Spring Highlights: Outreach and more!

Wow! We have had quite a busy Spring here at MSMP at Cornell!

Spayathon for Puerto Rico

In May, we went on our last trip of Round 1 of Spayathon for Puerto Rico. During Round 1 of Spayathon for Puerto Rico, members of Cornell’s Shelter Medicine team along with volunteers ran 3 mash-style high-volume spay neuter clinics in Puerto Rico. We have signed on for Round 2 of Spayathonfor Puerto Rico with a commitment to lead 6 more spay-neuter clinics over the next two years. We will continue to lead veterinary service trips to multiple locations in Puerto Rico as part of the Spayathonfor Puerto Rico initiative, an endeavor comprised of 23 organizations who have come together under the leadership of the Humane Society of the United States to alleviate difficult conditions for animals in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Images from Spayathon for Puerto Rico: Round 1 (Summer 2018-Spring 2019):

Dr. Fischer-Daly (intern '19) with Spayathon for Puerto Rico clientsclients and pets at Spayathon for Puerto Ricoclinic is ready and set up for Spayathon for Puerto Rico

Schuyler County Wellness Clinics

We held Schuyler County Wellness Clinics in both April and May. In collaboration with the Humane Society of Schuyler County, we provide wellness care, such as physical exams, vaccines, deworming, and flea/tick prevention to the under-served pets of low-income owners in Schuyler County.

These clinics are made possible by an Engaged Opportunity Grant through Engaged Cornell. Engaged Opportunity Grants are designed to help faculty and staff from across the University by supporting large and small projects which create, enhance, or encourage participation in community-engaged initiatives.

Images from the May 18th clinic at the Humane Society of Schuyler County:

Dr. Gallegos discussed records with CU vet student, Renee Staffeld ('20)CU vet student volunteering at Schuyler Wellness Clinic discusses procedures with your pet ownerCU vet student, Renee Staffeld, does physical exam on large dog during Schuyler County Wellness Clinic Photo of cars outside the Humane Society of Schuyler County on the day of the wellness clinic run by MSMP at Cornell

CornellVet Cares Community Cat Clinics

On June 14th, we ran our 3rd CornellVet Cares Community Cat Clinic for outdoor and barn cats of Cornell faculty. staff and students. Thanks to a grant made possible by Dr. Hollis Erb, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell is offering several subsidized spay/neuter clinics for outdoor and community cats of Cornell faculty, staff, and students at the new Small Animal Community Practice building on Cornell’s Ithaca campus through the end of November 2019.

Coaxing a cat out of a carrier during MSMP at Cornell's CornellVet Cares Community Cat ClinicDr. Henry writes out the surgery schedule during one of MSMP at Cornell's CornellVet Cares Community Cat ClinicDr. Gallegos (shelter medicine intern '19) performs a solo spay surgery during a CornellVet Cares Community Cat Clinic


NEW! Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Mini-Conferences

This Fall, we will be hosting our first Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Mini-Conference. Taking the place of our monthly Central New York Shelter Forum meetings, these biannual half-day workshops will focus on shelter medicine topics and are designed to complement our annual summer ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference, which will be held this year from July 12-14.

Lead by MSMP faculty, these smaller meetings are meant to act as networking and information gathering sessions for our local and regional shelters. Our first Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Mini-Conference will be held on November 15, 2019, at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine located in Ithaca, NY. The topic for our first mini-conference will be “Sheltering by Number: Using Data to Save Lives”.

More information will be available soon in the “News & Events” section of our website.

If you have any questions or comments about the events or information provided in this MSMP at Cornell blog post, please email Sarah Nickerson, Shelter Medicine Program Coordinator, at .

Thank you,

Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell



Central New York Shelter Forum is back! Check out the 2018-2019 schedule below.

Hello Shelties!

Welcome to a new and exciting year of CNY Shelter Forum with your Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Team at Cornell! We have a change in the day that Shelter Forum occurs this year. Shelter Forum will now be on the first Tuesday of the month! Same time – 5:30pm to 7:30pm, and same place – Conference Room 1 at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center. 

Our Central New York Shelter Forum brings together local animal shelter staff and volunteers to discuss a broad range of topics relevant to shelter medicine and animal care. Led by our staff program’s staff, we offer advice and information and hold roundtable discussions on a new topic each month.

Here is a list of our 2018-2019 CNY Shelter Forum schedule of presentations. As always, if there is a specific topic you would like covered or you have any ideas for future topics, please email See you at forum!

Tuesday, September 4th
Dr. Lena DeTar, Assistant Clinical Professor of Shelter Medicine
Overview of Feline Infectious Disease and Testing

Tuesday, October 2nd
Dr. Mackenzie Gallegos, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Intern ’18
Geriatrics In The Shelter

Tuesday, November 6th
Dr. Erin Henry, Shelter Medicine Instructor
Use of Behavior Drugs In The Shelter

Tuesday, December 4th
Dr. Sabine Fischer-Daly, Janet L. Swanson Intern of Shelter Medicine ’18
Overview of Domestic and International Transport

WINTER BREAK – January and February 2019

Tuesday, March 5th
Dr. Elizabeth Berliner, Janet L. Swanson Director of Shelter Medicine
Review of Updates in SAWA (Society of Animal Welfare Administrators) Guidelines

Tuesday, April 2nd
Dr. Elizabeth Berliner, Janet L. Swanson Director of Shelter Medicine
Puerto Rico Spay / Neuter Project Efforts

Tuesday, May 7th
Speaker TBD
Animal Hoarding and The CIA (Cruelty Intervention Advocacy)

Tuesday, June 4th
Speaker TBD
Presentation TBD