The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) named Joan Miller recipient of its 2017 Humane Award.
It was a huge honor for me to help present the award to Joan along with Dr. Brian Holub and Dr. Tom Meyer, president of the AVMA.
The Humane Award is the only honor that AVMA bestows to a non-veterinarian. Back in 2002, I was so honored, and was then the youngest person to be presented with the award. Knowing Joan, and being a part of the group that submitted her name into consideration, I was asked to participate in the awards ceremony.
“Ms. Miller is most deserving of this award,” said Meyer. “For more than 30 years…her education and outreach efforts have led to vital advancements in many areas of feline research and health. I congratulate Ms. Miller on receiving this well-deserved award and thank her for her passion, perseverance, and commitment to the humane care of all felines.”
I explained that, among Joan’s many significant contributions, Miller was instrumental last year in establishing the Feline Fix by Five Initiative (with Esther Mechler of SPAY USA) to spearhead the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization to develop recommendations for when to spay/neuter cats. Calling upon evidence-based data, the Feline Fix by Five initiative advocates that cats are spayed/neutered by the age of five months to reduce the risk of unwanted litters and maximize health and welfare benefits.
“This important recommendation, now being accepted and recognized by various important veterinary associations, will save lives,” I said.
Throughout her career, Miller has held positions on many task forces focused on feline care and welfare. She served as the nonprofit Winn Feline Foundation’s president for 16 years. “The Winn Feline Foundation wouldn’t be the success it is today without Joan’s contribution,” Holub said.
Miller was a member of the board of directors of the Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc. (CFA) for more than 25 years, including four years as vice president. At CFA, she served on many committees and led advocacy for many years. As a spokesperson for the cat fancy, Miller fought anti-breeder legislation on Capitol Hill, as well as in state capitals. “Joan’s responsible for some animal welfare laws,” I told the group gathered at the Convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association in Indianapolis, Indiana. “And she’s equally responsible for pushing back on legislation that would have been detrimental to companion animals, so she’s even helped dogs.”
Miller was herself a cat breeder for many years, and is an internationally renowned show judge.
She’s also served on the advisory boards of the Cornell Feline Health Center and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. In 1979, Miller established the Winn Foundation’s inaugural Symposium on Feline Health, which continues to this day. The first speaker at that symposium was Dr. Niels Pedersen of UC Davis Veterinary School, who happened to be the speaker at the most recent symposium in June in Chicago, where he announced that he might have found a class of drug to treat feline infectious peritonitis, work funded by Winn. Miller contributed to Pedersen’s landmark text, Feline Husbandry: Disease and Management in the Multi-Cat Environment. She is a prolific writer—it seems that she has contributed to most cat publications on the planet as well as various other books. Miller has worked for decades to educate the public about cats, often busting common myths about our feline friends.
Holub, who is the chief medical officer at VetCor, said that he never would have become a cat breeder, served on the Winn Feline Scientific Advisory Board or board of directors if it wasn’t for Miller’s influence. Indeed, Holub’s contribution to veterinary medicine is significant, and he has touched many careers. “And it all began with Joan,” Holub said with a smile.
I noted, “I’ve more than once thought when asked about an issue, ‘What would Joan do?’ Her influence and commitment to cat health—long before it was trendy—has been steadfast. We never should forget that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.”
Miller spoke briefly, and thanked her husband Peter Keys, who was wiping away tears. Miller spoke softly and with impact. “I want people to understand that all cats are in our care: pedigreed cats, mixed breeds, community cats, and cats in shelters.”
At a time when there’s divisiveness about resources—and where they should go—Joan’s message was clear: All cats matter equally. “We must work together.”
I said, “There are many who have worked tirelessly for the welfare of cats, and some are in this room today. There are all of us, and then there’s Joan Miller.”