Resources in recognition of domestic violence awareness month

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

In recognition of October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, we have put together a list of resources for those needing assistance and those looking for more information so they may better serve humans and animals in need.

Animal abuse is often the first point of intervention in cases of human violence- including child abuse, spousal and domestic violence, elder abuse and so on. When animals are abused, humans are at risk and vice versa. This is commonly known as “the Link”.

Lila Miller, DVM ’77

Understanding “The Link”

“What is the link” (National Link Coalition): http://nationallinkcoalition.org/what-is-the-link

“Pets and Domestic Violence” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence- NCADV): https://www.sheriffs.org/publications/NCADV-Pets-DV.pdf

“Help Domestic Violence Victims Endangered by Pet Housing Challenges” (ASPCA blog post): https://www.aspca.org/blog/help-domestic-violence-victims-endangered-pet-housing-challenges

Resources on Services

Animal Welfare Institute

  • Safe Havens: Search for safe havens for pets of domestic violence victims and other agencies that either provide sheltering services for the companion animals or have a relationship with an entity that does, or provide referrals to such facilities: https://awionline.org/safe-havens

Red Rover:

National Domestic Violence Hotline

24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides essential tools and support to help survivors of domestic violence.

Contacts to The Hotline can expect highly-trained, expert advocates to offer free, confidential, and compassionate support, crisis intervention information, education, and referral services in over 200 languages

Informative Resources

Red Rover

Animal Welfare Institute

Humane Society of the United States

Animal Legal Defense Fund

The Link Between Cruelty to Animals and Violence Toward Humans: https://aldf.org/article/the-link-between-cruelty-to-animals-and-violence-toward-humans-2/

McKinney’s Family Court Act § 842  

New York State includes pets in protective orders. This New York law pertains to the issuance of protection orders.  In July of 2006, the amendment that allows companion animals owned by the petitioner of the order or a minor child residing in the household to be included in the order was signed into law.  The law specifically allows a court to order the respondent to refrain from intentionally injuring or killing, without justification, any companion animal the respondent knows to be owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by the petitioner or a minor child residing in the household. Click here for a list of states that do the same: https://www.animallaw.info/article/domestic-violence-and-pets-list-states-include-pets-protection-orders


Cornell’s Shelter Medicine Program provides spay/neuter services to community cats of CU employees & students


The dedication and care you give to the feral/barn cats of the Cornell community is absolutely outstanding. I truly value your work and dedication to the care of our cat colonies. The free spay/neuter service means the world to me and my cats. Thank you again.      

-Client, CornellVetCARES Community Cat Spay/Neuter Clinic

In April 2019, Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program (MSMP) at Cornell began to provide subsidized spay/neuter clinics for outdoor & community cats of Cornell faculty, staff, and students through our CornellVetCARES (CVC) Community Cat Spay/Neuter Clinics . These monthly clinics were made possible through a grant by Dr. Hollis Erb, Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology. Since then, MSMP faculty and staff have organized and executed 12 spay/neuter clinics for community cats at Cornell’s Small Animal Community Practice Building located on Cornell’s Ithaca campus.

204 cats have been served by our clinics thus far. “I love it – The people that run the clinic were friendly. Informative, and very helpful. Thanks so much! I’m excited for NO MORE KITTENS – love them but don’t want any more!”, said one of our clients. Along with spay/neuter, we also provide routine vaccinations, ear mite and flea & tick checks and treatments (as necessary), and the option for ear tipping for feral and community cats.

Several Cornell veterinary students have also gained hands-on clinic experience while participating in these clinics, either as volunteers or while on Shelter Medicine Clinical Rotation with MSMP:

During the clinic, I helped facilitate the flow of cats through the clinic, from intake to anesthesia, and during surgery to discharge. I was also able to perform some surgeries (both spays and neuters).  I think it was great that people really wanted to bring us these cats to have them spayed or neutered. They were very appreciative of the services. The supervising veterinarians were great! I liked working with a great team of other students and vets, and I enjoyed getting to practice my surgical skills.

Lauren Alyssa Johnson (DVM ’20)

This was my first high-volume spay/neuter experience. I helped in recovery and made sure all cats safely recovered from anesthesia and received preventives and vaccines as necessary…. I learned that when recovering feral cats, it’s important to put them in their carrier early in recovery because they can become aggressive quickly and wake up very rapidly.

-Victoria Robertson (DVM ’20)

Clinics scheduled in March and April of 2020 were cancelled due to COVID-19. Clinics resumed in June and July 2020 with COVID-related guidelines and procedures in place. We just completed our 12 CornellVetCARES Community Clinic on August 21st, with 2 more clinics scheduled in September, October of 2020. We plan on offering similar clinics again next year under a new grant from the Feline Health Center.

All three of the cats I brought in are doing great. I truly appreciate this “gift” as I have exhausted my own ability to finance the spay/neuter of these community cats.

-Client, CVC Community Cat Spay/Neuter Clinics

Click here to learn more about our CornellVetCARES Community Cat Spay/Neuter Clinics.


Adjusting to the “New Normal”: Life and Shelter Medicine in the time of COVID-19

Damian Barr quoteEach of us has been facing different hurdles and new adjustments in the weeks that COVID-19 has drastically changed our lives, both professionally and personally. In this post we share how our team here at MSMP at Cornell is adjusting to this “new normal,” what has changed for us at work, and thoughts on the changes for the future of shelter medicine and veterinary care.

Lena DeTar, DVM, DABVP, DACVPM (Assistant Clinical Professor):

With campus closed, I have been primarily working at the desk in my living room, a heating pad in my lap, dogs and cat sleeping on the chairs behind me, a prime view of the bird feeder and its busy collection of creatures in front. It is a welcome diversion from the scramble of getting all of my teaching materials for Introduction to Shelter Medicine, Forensics, and Advanced Shelter Medicine on line, monitoring discussion boards, proctoring exams, and leading live on-line zoom meetings for students. I was image of MSMP staff meeting via zoomtapped early on to be part of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians COVID-19 crisis response task force, which meant writing SOPs, attending a lot of industry webinars, and reading/editing a lot of guidance documents for shelters trying to navigate their individual responses. There are many more meetings- university, vet school, department, and other projects, all over zoom now- and my calendar is pretty full.

Although it feels like I only leave my house to walk the dogs, I did spend a couple sleepless nights on call for the small animal surgery service at the CUHA at the beginning of all of this, and I spent a few weeks providing direct care service at the SPCA. I like having a full kitchen at my disposal for lunch. I’ve also really enjoyed seeing local NY shelter people on our Friday calls- it is a highlight of my week. That, and the occasional Pileated Woodpecker.

Erin Henry, VMD, DACVPM (Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Instructor):

When I think about the last 8 weeks, my mind is boggled by how much has changed. Our team meets virtually, faculty never spending time in the same room together as a precautionary measure. All the students have gone home. I only see them in our online classes. We converted daily rounds at the shelter to a living electronic document and a weekly online meeting.

Being someone who thrives on in-person interaction, working from home more than 75% of the week has been daunting; but throughout this time, I keep reflecting on one of my favorite Mr. Rogers quotes, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” Luckily for me, Look for the helpers quote imagewhat has remained the same is that this industry is full of helpers.  Shelter medicine programs are working around the clock to make sure shelters have the most up-to-date information; shelter veterinarians are helping their organizations adjust their protocols to maintain the safety of the animals, their staff, and the community; and animal shelters across the country put out the call for help and their communities responded, taking tens of thousands of shelter animals into their homes until they can be adopted. Helpers are EVERYWHERE in animal sheltering!

The last 8 weeks reveal this may be just the spark our industry needed to continue growing.  We are re-evaluating the role of an animal shelter in the community. Hundreds of organizations are strategizing the way shelters serve animals and the community. If these 8 weeks have been any indication of what we can achieve, I have no doubt that the future is bright for animal sheltering. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Wesley Cheung, DVM (2019 Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Intern):

In the age of COVID-19, we’ve all had to rapidly change how we live, work, and learn. Although we have admittedly been struggling to adjust to our new roles over the past few weeks, we have now undoubtedly found some stability in our “new normal”.

For me, the “new normal” was adjusting to update our medical checklists and animal rounds cases on a Google spreadsheet, working fewer hours with fewer support staff while abiding by strict social regulations, and keeping track of zoom meetings and projects throughout the week. I have also tried to stay productive in my spare time. My latest accomplishment: the crow pose.

As animal rescue organizations continue to adapt to their “new normal”, our shared experiences over the past few weeks have brought shelters closer together; yet the difference in the impact of COVID-19 on organizations has given rise to polarized opinions. Regardless, there are commonalities such as the value of telemedicine, intake diversion strategies, remote foster management, and reducing barriers to adoption.

There are still a lot of uncertainties ahead of us. We may revert to old habits, or we may have to continue to adjust and adapt. Maybe some of us are even re-imagining new futures based on what we’ve experienced and learned. Regardless, it’s important to remember that struggling to cope with these uncertainties is normal. It’s important to help others the best you can, while not forget to care for yourself.

Sarah Ericksen, DVM (2019 Janet L. Swanson Intern of Shelter Medicine):

I am a planner, the kind that makes a daily itinerary for a trip. As information about COVID-19 was coming out at breakneck speed, I would have been overwhelmed if it were not for the leadership of our program, the College of Veterinary Medicine community, and the Tompkins County SPCA. Clear and concise communication was provided in a timely manner. However, what made the biggest impact in alleviating my fear/stress/anxiety was that every guideline and/or recommendation prioritized the health and safety of personnel while providing high-level care to the animals and clients in our community. Knowing this, despite being an individual considered to be in the COVID-19  “high risk” category, I never once felt unsafe fulfilling my work responsibilities as a shelter medicine intern.

The “typical” sheltering model had to be modified to balance human health and safety while providing adequate care to animals in the shelter. To reduce the amount of time spent physically in the shelter and maximize social distancing, fewer animals had to be in the shelter. We quickly switched to a foster-based sheltering model. I believe this shift in how we think about managing a shelter population is here to stay.

Similar to the need for change on the macro level, change was needed on the micro level (i.e. my job) as well. The primary focus of my internship was clinical experience and mentorship. The level of mentoring I receive has not changed though the amount of time I spend in the shelter has. I was tasked with exploring shelter medicine in non-traditional ways via webinars, certificate programs, online courses, an increased participation in classes offered to veterinary students, and good old-fashioned textbooks. Having the time to engage in different activities has actually been refreshing. The MSMP faculty have made sure my time as an intern is being well-spent and still centered around being mentored. COVID-19 has disrupted “business as usual”, but from where I sit this is not necessarily a bad development. The silver lining to these trying times is that new and exciting ideas are emerging in the sheltering world and I believe the people and animals will be better for it.

Vicki Weber (Shelter Medicine LVT):

We live on our hill, off the road.  We socialize with the neighbors on the other hills and in the valley. It’s almost modern-day little house on the prairie, except central New York woods. Our biggest lifestyle change has been the inability to eat meals out. That is the one luxury we sorely miss, although we have found our favorite restaurants provide take out.

Work life changed dramatically. Normally, I commute an hour to work and 95% of my work time is spent assisting others at the shelter, along with conducting my own projects, preparing for surgical procedures, attending meetings, etc. The other 5% of my time was spent on campus. During the PAUSE, I spent most of my time at home. “Work-life balance” boundaries become murky when the office can be anywhere: the dining room table, the kitchen bar, a couch, or your bedroom. While there is a distinct difference between physical and mental work, and physical fatigue and mental fatigue, I would rather be physically worked and fatigued any day of the week!  I now fully understand how attachment to electronics can cause mental and physical illness at times.  Human nature wants to connect with other people. I never have imagined the distant connections I would make through all the weekly zoom meetings and learning webinars.  I have been able to put names with faces and organizations, learn and share ideas, and get a candid sneak peek into everyone’s homes and personalities.

Aside from my personal minor lifestyle changes, drastic work change, and the new ways we have all found to connect, I think my biggest takeaways from the COVID-19 global crisis and struggle are: that change, although painful, is only temporary as we develop a new “normal”; struggle and loss will test any person’s character; and people are good.

Sarah Nickerson (Shelter Medicine Program Coordinator):

My birthday week this year started the way it does pretty much every year. I went into the office on Monday for the program’s all-staff meeting, and campus events and classes went on normally. However, COVID-19 was continuing to escalate in NYC, and there were whispers and speculation about possible school closures and other shutdowns. By Friday, March 13th, the day before my NY on pausebirthday, the whispers had grown louder; I gathered essential items from my office to take home in case we moved to working remotely. That night, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced all NYS schools were to close, meaning my 6-year-old son and all other school children would remain home indefinitely. By the end of the following week, Cornell students were told to pack and prepare for the second half of their semester to be completed online and NYS was officially “on pause”.

As Program Coordinator for Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University, I primarily focus on the administrative, marketing and communications, and event planning aspects of the program. Though my work is more easily completed remotely than my veterinary and LVT teammates, it has not been an easy transition. Early on, I was thankful to be tasked with organizing weekly Friday Q&A sessions online for New York State animal shelter staff and Poster for Friday COVID Q&As with CUMSMPveterinarians. In these virtual group meetings, our program faculty and local shelter representatives share how organizations have shifted their daily operations and discuss strategies for the future. Most recently, these discussions have evolved into preparing for a world in which shelter medicine is re-imagined and re-structured.

I am one of the lucky ones – I have not gotten sick nor have I lost anyone I love to this virus. But I am looking forward to a point where I can be in the same room with my coworkers providing the life-saving services that are our mission. There is a scene in “Office Space”, a popular movie released in 1999, during which the main character is being confronted about his absence from the office. The human resources person says to him, “Looks like you’ve been missing a lot of work lately.” The main character replies sarcastically, “I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘missing’ it.” Well, I can honestly say I have been missing the office and my co-workers, but I look forward to the innovations the shelter medicine community will build from this crisis.














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

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)

Shelter Medicine Intern 2018 Survey Results!

Dear readers,

Did you know that Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell (MSMP at Cornell) has trained 14 Interns in Shelter Medicine since 2010, with 2 more currently in training? Early in 2018, we sent out a survey to our graduated interns to learn about their work post-internship. We finally have the results in and want to share what we found with you. We had a 73% response rate. Here are the results from the information we collected from those respondents. 

  • 100% of respondents are currently employed
  • 100% their work includes shelter medicine practice
  • The areas of shelter medicine they work in are varied

  • 87% are paid full-time

  • 100% have training responsibility

  • 100% of our shelter medicine intern alumni agree that MSMP at Cornell prepared them for their career
  • Suggested areas for increased exposure include high-volume animal control shelters, forensics/cruelty, and non-routine surgery

Here are some testimonials from our Internship in Shelter Medicine Program:

Having an opportunity to learn through the internship program was life changing. It wasn’t until later in vet school when I realized I could have a career as a shelter veterinarian and became very excited about that prospect. However, in vet school we received little to no shelter medicine training. While that is slowly improving since I’ve graduated, the internship provided me with the tools and knowledge to feel confident and component to work in a shelter. It’s extremely fulfilling knowing that I am able to use what I learned to help so many animals that may otherwise not have a chance. In my opinion, shelter medicine internships are invaluable in improving the welfare for shelter animals.  – Dr. D. Boes

The internship at MSMP was life-changing and without it, it is unlikely I would have pursued a career in shelter medicine. The internship set me up to think about the big picture and problem solve to be able to provide the best possible care for shelter animals – individually and as a population. It gave me the background to feel confident and comfortable to push for changes in policy and protocol to improve the wellbeing, care, and operations at our organization. – Dr. J. Boyd

My internship gave me the confidence to jump right into the organization I currently work for and make contributions. While I still had things to learn (and still do!) I had a strong enough basis to makes changes immediately.                 – Dr. K. Gollon

To learn more about the Internship in Shelter Medicine Program offered by Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.