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Shelter Medicine

Shelter medicine is a growing field in veterinary medicine, focused on providing optimum care to homeless animals in shelters. It is a discipline which necessitates combining the healthcare needs of individual animals with the needs of the entire population of the shelter. As a discipline, shelter medicine was pioneered in the USA but the AWWC is now working to see its principles applied all around the world.

Course curriculum

  • 01

    Chapter 1: Introduction

    • Introduction

    • WSAVA Webinar on Shelter Medicine (Chapter 1)

  • 02

    Chapter 2: Animal Welfare, Population management & Capacity of care

    • WSAVA Webinar on Shelter Medicine (Chapter 2)

  • 03

    Chapter 3: Shelter Medicine Principles: Housing and Sanitation

    • WSAVA Webinar on Shelter Medicine (Chapter 3)

  • 04

    Chapter 4: Preventive Health and Disease Management

    • WSAVA Webinar on Shelter Medicine (Chapter 4)

  • 05

    Chapter 5: Sterilization & People Management

    • WSAVA Webinar on Shelter Medicine (Chapter 5)

  • 06

    Chapter 6: Case Studies

    • WSAVA Webinar on Shelter Medicine (Chapter 6)

    • More resources for you



Dr Natasha Lee is a veterinarian from Malaysia with over 14 years of experience in animal welfare. She also holds an MSc in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law from the University of Edinburgh. Dr Lee has experience managing a sustainable high-volume, high-quality neuter clinic in Malaysia. She had also managed several companion animal projects across Asia for World Animal Protection, including large-scale dog population and rabies control in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. She has experience advocating animal welfare to many Asian governments and organisations on humane approaches using science-based, comprehensive, and participatory methods. Other experiences within companion animal welfare include providing technical training, facilitating workshops, planning and monitoring projects, lobbying, and participating in high level discussions such as the FAO-led expert meeting on dog population management in 2011. Aside from companion animal welfare, Dr Lee has led a campaign to include animal welfare science into veterinary curricula across Asia. She provided training to more than half of the 250 veterinary schools in Asia, started a network of animal welfare educators, and conducted online courses for vets that had been supported by the Federation of Asian Veterinary Associations as well as esteemed vet schools in Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Edinburgh.

Natasha Lee

Chair of the WSAVA Animal Wellness and Welfare Committee (AWWC)



Dr. Katherine Polak is a veterinarian dedicated to improving animal welfare in Southeast Asia, and in limited-resourced communities around the world. She graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine followed by an internship in Shelter Medicine and Surgery at Colorado State University, and later a residency in Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida. She also completed both a Master of Public Health from the University of Iowa and Master of Forensic Science from the University of Florida. Dr. Polak currently serves as the Head of Stray Animal Care – Southeast Asia for FOUR PAWS International, a global animal welfare organization based in Vienna, Austria working to end the suffering of wild, stray, and farm animals. Dr. Polak lives in Thailand and currently manages a variety of companion animal programs in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, with a special focus on combatting the cruel dog and cat meat trade in the region. Prior to working at FOUR PAWS, Dr. Polak was the International Director of Animal Welfare at Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket, Thailand. A boarded specialist in both Shelter Medicine (American Board of Veterinary Practitioners) and Veterinary Preventive Medicine (American Board of Veterinary Preventive Medicine), her focus is on veterinary training, high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter programs, and organizational capacity building. She currently serves as faculty at the University of Florida where she teaches in the online Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program, and in 2018, she became the Medical Director for the Humane Society of the United States' Spayathon for Puerto Rico. She currently sits on the WSAVA Animal Welfare Committee and Alliance for Contraception for Cats and Dogs (ACC&D) International Advisory Board, and has also co-edited and authored the textbook, 'Field Manual for Small Animal Medicine' with Wiley Publishing, a resource for veterinarians working in under-resourced communities.

Katherine Polak

Head of Stray Animal Care - Southeast Asia for FOUR PAWS

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The Purina Institute

The work of the WSAVA Animal Wellness and Welfare Committee is generously supported by