A Q and A with new UF shelter medicine online master’s graduate Ashleigh Rankin


Ashleigh Rankin

Ashleigh Rankin’s experience volunteering in her Charlotte County community in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian became part of her Capstone presentation as part of her UF online master’s degree in veterinary medical sciences with a concentration in shelter medicine.

Among the 35 UF College of Veterinary Medicine graduate students who received degrees in December was Ashleigh Rankin, one of 12 students who received online master’s degrees in veterinary medical sciences with a concentration in shelter medicine.

Rankin shared with the Veterinary Page about her background, what drew her to the online shelter medicine master’s program and what the experience was like for her.

How did you become interested in pursuing a graduate degree through the UF Shelter Medicine Program’s online master’s degree program? 

  • I became interested in the UF Shelter Medicine Program’s online degree after volunteering heavily at an animal shelter for a few years and seeing the amazing impact that the specific shelter medicine track had on the shelter’s ability to life-save during a widespread distemper outbreak. The program did an amazing job at giving our shelter & veterinary staff the tools and education necessary to save a large number of the lives affected. Besides that, I also had the opportunity to volunteer heavily with other local organizations and was able to see the deficit in shelter-specific education in areas such as behavior, enrichment, disease spread, etc. I was motivated to learn more. The degree took me approximately 2.5 years, with a semester break due to my father’s diagnosis of stage 4 cancer.

Tell us something about your background and interests.

  • I started volunteering for shelters right out of high school as a dog walker. That passion quickly turned into a lifestyle, with me taking on the care and fostering of critical care/bottle-baby kittens and puppies. Since then, I have founded the feline division for a local rescue, Rescue Garage, that formerly did very limited to no cat adoptions. I am so blessed to be able to volunteer almost full time on top of being a full-time substitute teacher in my local school district of Charlotte County, where I am able to share some stories and photos with the youth in my community while infusing some animal care and welfare education into the lessons I teach them.

You took on a volunteer role in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Can you share more about that?  

  • In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, I assisted with a lot of different aspects of care/volunteering/contribution through Rescue Garage, the main organization I volunteer with. I used this experience in my Capstone presentation, where I discussed a lot of the efforts along with slides I used to depict these efforts visually. I also was able to meet Dr. Katherine Polack, who was working at the Humane Society of the United States clinic in my town. It was amazing to see one of my professors in action!

What do you hope to accomplish with your degree?

  • I am hoping to gain more experience and knowledge of animals and fundraising through future degrees in nonprofit management and, hopefully, veterinary school so that I can return to my community to start a high quality, high volume spay-neuter clinic as there is a huge need for this in my county and the surrounding areas.


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Rankin used her experience volunteering with a Charlotte County rescue group in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian as part of her Capstone presentation for the UF Shelter Medicine Program online master’s degree.

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