Veterinarian Has Treated Over 400 Homeless People’s Pets for Free

California vet is looking for animals who could use some free medical help.

Apr 23, 2020

In his free time before the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Kwane Stewart would drive around California in search of homeless people with their dogs who may need medical assistance. Stewart is a veterinarian with an impressive resume, but his true passion is treating the companion pets of California’s homeless population. 

According to CNN, he has already helped over 400 pets, and despite a busy schedule – which includes working for Netflix as an animal specialist – he has no plans of slowing down!

Stewart began offering free services around the time of the Great Recession in 2007. He noticed that many animals were being taken to shelters or left on the street because owners could no longer afford to take care of them.  

Modesto, California, where Stewart was working at the time “got hit especially hard” he told CNN. “It was ground zero for California as far as job loss and home loss, and people were just dumping their pets in shelters.”

That’s when Stewart had his eureka flash. "That was the moment for me career-wise that was enlightening. Up until then, I'd been practicing high-end medicine for clients who could pay for everything. But suddenly I was thrown into this economic war and people couldn't even afford to help their pets." 

Realizing that many pet-owners had nowhere to turn during trying times, he decided to do something new. In 2011, Stewart set up a table at a soup kitchen, and began asking pet-owners if they’d be interested in a check-up for their furry friends. Before long, a whole line of people had formed who were thrilled to have someone check-up on their companion.

Whether the pet needs help with allergies, fleas, arthritis, or a skin infection, Stewart is there to help. In fact, he doesn’t leave home without his medical bag. He has also set up a GoFundMe page, where people can donate money to support surgeries and other invasive procedures that require veterinarian facilities and a pricey bill

What had begun as an educational trip to a soup kitchen with his son and his son’s girlfriend, had turned into a new life’s calling. He has even launched a TV series, "Dr. Kwane: The Street Vet,"  out of his incredible work.

Stewart has learnt a lot over the nine years he has been treating homeless pets. He also discovered that for people living on the streets, their pets provide them with an unbelievable amount of love, support, companionship, and mental health.

Stewart in an interview with TODAY, talked about a particularly stirring story of a homeless man with colon cancer and his blinding dachshund. The homeless man had told Stewart that he’d rather have him restore his dog’s vision than be cured of his own cancer.

“And he meant it,” Stewart said. “He was sincere. He loved that dog. He said that dog has saved his life, mainly his sanity, and gives him hope every morning

 One of the lessons that Stewart learned was that many of the taboos against homeless people  are inaccurate. "I had my own prejudgments, like a lot of people, about homeless people before I started doing this work," Stewart told CNN. 

"You just make assumptions about their story without even knowing anything about them. You learn very quickly that you have no idea what put them there. It could be something like job loss which leads to bad credit, so they can't get an apartment, and these moments snowball quickly."

Steward reminds us that there are an infinite number of ways to help those around us. His particular passion from a young age was to help animals, and during rough times he saw a community in need that no one else saw.

This kind veterinarian reminds us that we each have the power to identify a cause or a marginalized community that others don’t necessarily see. Stewart’s gift to the world doesn’t start and end at treating pets of the homeless, his true gift is to remind us that no matter what our talent, passion, or profession is, there is a way that we can channel it to make the world a better place.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.