On Saturday, July 10, 2021, Maddie’s Fund honored Lila Miller, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), with a presentation of the 2021 Avanzino Leadership Award at the ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference. The award recognizes significant achievement and courage to look beyond the status quo and make bold decisions to improve the lives of pets and their people.
Considered the mother of shelter medicine, Dr. Miller is a pioneer and leading voice in veterinary shelter medicine. She transformed the lives of countless pets, educated a generation of students, and paved the way for women of color in veterinary medicine. She blazed a trail that broke barriers, as she was one of the first two African American women to graduate from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1977.
A longtime resident of New York City, Dr. Miller developed the first veterinary-written guidelines for shelter animal care, which are now used across the country. She wrote and taught the first course in shelter medicine in the US and co-founded the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV).
Dr. Miller spent 40 years trailblazing in the animal welfare field. She spent a majority of her career working for the ASPCA as the head and director of the ASPCA’s Brooklyn Clinic for 15 years before transitioning to her roles as veterinary advisor, Vice President of Veterinary Outreach, followed by the Vice President of Shelter Medicine. Dr. Miller retired in 2019. Her career at the ASPCA began when the ASPCA held the contract with the City of New York to operate the city’s municipal shelter system. In 1995, that contract was transferred to the Center for Animal Care and Control of NYC (CACC), which later was renamed Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC).
Maddie’s Fund is the national family foundation established by Dave & Cheryl Duffield to revolutionize the status and well being of companion animals. The Avanzino Leadership Award was first presented in 2016, and is named after Rich Avanzino, widely recognized as the father of the no-kill movement and the President of Maddie’s Fund from 1999 – 2015.
A multi-million-dollar, multi-year grant from Maddie’s Fund to the Alliance and New York City that began in 2005 powered the Alliance’s collaborative success in transforming New York City into a no-kill city. It helped to elevate ACC into the thriving animal care organization it is today.
Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Executive Leadership Team member at Maddie’s Fund, opened the virtual award ceremony by announcing Dr. Miller as this year’s Avanzino Leadership Award winner. She introduced Elizabeth Wanaselja, representing the NYC Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare, who read a letter of commendation from Mayor Bill de Blasio recognizing Dr. Miller’s outstanding contributions to shelter medicine.
Mary enumerated the kudos bestowed upon Dr. Miller by numerous other political dignitaries. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office issued a Proclamation that proclaimed July 10 as Dr. Lila Miller Shelter Medicine Day in New York City. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick presented a Proclamation via video that also designated July 10 as Dr. Lila Miller Shelter Medicine Day in Ithaca.
Commendations also were received from U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Representative Tom Reed, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and New York State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick. Mary announced that Dr. Miller would be honored further on Monday, July 12, when NYC’s Times Square jumbotron would feature Dr. Lila Miller Shelter Medicine Day.
Mary offered special thanks to Mayor’s Alliance President, Jane Hoffman, Maddie’s Fund Director of Marketing & Communications, Sharon Fletcher, and Executive Director of the NYS Animal Protection Federation, Libby Post. Jane was instrumental in connecting Maddie’s Fund with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare’s Director, Christine Kim, and to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Dr. Miller appeared understandably surprised and awed by the tremendous accolades bestowed upon her. She made an eloquent acknowledgement speech in which she thanked Maddie’s Fund for the award and named many of the individuals who influenced her success over the years. Perhaps her most moving acknowledgement came when she spoke of her longtime friend and colleague, the late Julie Morris, whose visionary leadership at the ASPCA played a critical role in some of the most important developments in the animal welfare field. Dr. Miller dedicated her most recent shelter medicine textbook to Julie.
The award is presented with a $25,000 grant to be designated by its recipient. Dr. Miller designated ACC as the recipient of this year’s grant.
Jane and Alliance Director of Communications Steve Gruber were on hand for the virtual ceremony. Says Jane: “I have known Lila for years and she is one of my heroes. Steve and I were thrilled to be able to attend the presentation.
“Moreover, we are beyond grateful for the critical support the Alliance and our 150 shelter and rescue partners received from Maddie’s Fund over the years,” Jane continued. “We owe much of our success in saving the lives of more than 350,000 dogs and cats in New York City to Maddie’s Fund’s generous support and resolute belief in our mission to transform New York City into a no-kill community.”
Jane wanted to acknowledge two individuals from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office who worked behind the scenes to produce the Proclamation: Twilla Duncan and Tyrone Bowman, who handle Proclamation requests for the office. As an interesting side note, Twila adopted her dog Chase from ACC in 2008. Chase is an unofficial community affairs staffer for Manhattan Borough President Brewer.
Addendum August 31 2021:
Maddie’s Candid Conversation with Dr. Lila Miller
Watch the recording of Maddie’s Fund’s recent conversation with Dr. Miller, where she talks not only about her amazing achievements, but also her unique perspective on the role of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in animal welfare. Watch now >