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Oklahoma State University

Shelter Surgery

two women and a dog

The OSU CVM Shelter Surgery program consists of two separate classes that allow students to learn and practice surgery techniques by spaying and neutering shelter animals. Surgical Fundamentals in Shelter Patients is a two-week senior rotation where senior veterinary students gain surgical and anesthesia experience. This is a required rotation for all senior students. Junior Surgery is where junior veterinary students first learn to perform spays and neuters as part of their surgical training. This prepares them for clinics their senior year. The program benefits the shelters by providing low cost surgical procedures, vaccines and exams. This helps ensure the animals stay healthy and ready for adoption. Many animals are actually adopted by their students during the semester!

This program partners with more than 30 (and counting) Oklahoma municipal shelters and rescue groups. These groups bring their dogs and cats to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to be spayed or neutered. This prevents unwanted litters from animals that might be adopted without surgery, perpetuating the over-populations issues that face many communities.

The focus of this program is to provide practical surgical and anesthesia experience to students. They perform anesthesia and surgery under the guidance of clinical faculty. Approximately 3,000 animals have surgery through this program each year, with each senior student performing 10 to 20 procedures per rotation. These are primarily spays and neuters, but other procedures may be performed as well. Amputations are performed on animals with severe leg or tail injuries to allow animals to be adopted that may have otherwise been euthanized. The students also perform dentals on patients to gain experience with routine dental procedures.  

Student Impact

In addition to surgical skills, the students learn other aspects of veterinary medicine. This includes anesthesia and pain management options, physical exams, and basic animal handling skills. We utilize the Fear FreeTM methods of handling dogs and cats to make their veterinary visits less stressful. A thorough examination is performed on each animal, allowing the students to discuss health issues and learn about treating common conditions. Performing anesthesia and associated procedures, including intravenous catheter placement and tracheal intubation, allows students to practice hands-on skills.  These skills will impact every animal that students work with in the future.

Community Impact

The Shelter Surgery Program serves Oklahoma by spaying and neutering shelter pets prior to adoption. This reduces the number of unwanted animals ending up back in the shelter system. Vaccines and parasite control help keep animals healthy and happy, increasing their chances of being adopted into a forever home.


If you have questions regarding the Shelter Surgery program, please contact the OSU Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital at 405-744-7000.


The OSU CVM Shelter Surgery Program is partially funded by gifts from generous donors.


To learn more about giving to the Shelter Surgery program, contact Ashley Hesser, assistant director of development at the OSU Foundation at 405-385-0715 or