About Priority 4 Paws

Priority 4 Paws (P4P), is a shelter medicine program elective course in shelter medicine and surgery, was created in 2012 at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine following a pilot study and the benchmarking of other programs. This program allows fourth year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students an opportunity to spend two weeks performing surgeries for some of the financially challenged Indiana animal shelters on-site from a mobile unit and one week volunteering at an animal shelter under the direction of a veterinarian.

COVID-19 caused a massive shift to the program but has provided incredible outcomes including an improved student learning experience and expanded patient care capabilities. A stationary P4P area located at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine was established and shelter partners began graciously transporting their animals to Purdue. In a larger stationary space, students have the physical space to better hone their physical examination and surgical skills rather than in a physically-constrained mobile unit. The stationary space also allows the team a physically larger and, therefore, safer recovery area for patients following their surgical procedure.

Moving forward, it is our great hope that the P4P program will continue to grow and expand both in our medical and surgical care of our patients and in our educational opportunities for not only fourth year DVM students, but also our veterinary nursing students and first, second, and third year DVM students.

dr. curry cuddling patient


  • Provide excellent and compassionate care to all animals entrusted to us
  • Contribute to the discovery of new knowledge in anesthesia and surgery
  • Promote engagement through the free exchange of information and the sharing of knowledge within the College of Veterinary Medicine and our constituents (shelter personnel, referring veterinarians, other institutions and collaborators), the general public and the biomedical community.


  • Provide practical surgical and primary medical care hands-on experience for Purdue veterinary students.
  • Provide free spay and neuter surgeries for Indiana animal shelters so that animals that are adopted don’t contribute to unwanted litters and the problem of pet overpopulation.
  • Provide basic medical care and/or recommendations for shelter animals to improve their health, well-being, and adoptability.
  • Instill a philanthropic spirit in students so they continue to support animal shelters wherever they decide to work after graduation.

Contact Us

Contacts us at sheltermed@purdue.edu if you have any questions.


2012: Priority 4 Paws is created as an elective course in shelter surgery for fourth year students to gain experience performing surgery and volunteering at animal shelters under the direction of a veterinarian.

2012: With financial assistance from sponsors and donors, Priority 4 Paws purchases and equips a mobile surgery unit, hires a full-time veterinarian, and a registered veterinary technician to staff the year-round service at 13 Indiana animal shelters.

2020: Due to COVID-19, a stationary Priority 4 Paws area located at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine is established and shelter partners begin graciously transporting their animals to Purdue for medical and surgical care. The mobile surgery service is paused due to inability to comply with social distancing guidelines in the constrained space.

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