Dr. Kwane Stewart, known as The Street Vet, has been a practicing veterinarian across California for 22 years. Early in his career, he had the difficult task of euthanizing unwanted / unclaimed cats and kittens in a crowded animal shelter. In order to cope mentally, he had to let go emotionally.
But one kitten – sushi – was distinguished by her dedicated personality. Dr. Stewart adopted her, and she taught him an invaluable lesson on compassion that would guide his days in more ways than he could have imagined, especially as of 2007 when the Great Recession hit.
As a practicing veterinarian for the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency in Modesto, California, he practiced high-end medicine for clients who could afford the best care. He remembers the influx of abandoned animals that came to his shelter because many people could no longer afford simple medical care.
He also noticed the influx of homeless people commuting to and from work, many with pets, which inspired him to set a table in a soup kitchen in 2011, thinking this would be the easiest way to meet at least a small group of animals help. After Dr. After examining and treating about 15 animals that first day, Stewart said he was “humbled by the experience that many homeless people hold their pets responsible for keeping them alive and giving them hope and a sense of security”. He goes on to say, “Anyone can be steps away from homelessness, and it was a profound lesson to be learned.”
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Nine years later, Dr. Stewart made helping the homeless part of his normal routine. He travels up and down the California coast, carrying a bag of medical supplies and goodies, and spends his free time wandering underpasses and alleys looking for pets and people in need. He treats everything from ear infections and overgrown toenails to flea infestations and eye diseases. He pays the basic food and veterinary costs.
While most of the pets he treats are dogs, he also sees cats, birds, snakes, and more with one simple attitude: he treats his homeless customers like any paying customer – without judgment and with respect. He says his job is not to preach but to practice medicine and help animals in need.
He admits that some cases are more difficult than others, such as a woman whose cat had a litter of six kittens and who wanted to keep them all. Dr. Stewart says that while it wasn’t his job to take the kittens away, he did his best to encourage her that it was in their best interests to find good homes for the kittens. She finally agreed and he hopes to be able to neuter the mother cat in the future.
Life has taken a decisive turn since that first soup kitchen clinic. To raise funds for his growing veterinary efforts, he launched a GoFundMe page and was named GoFundMe Hero of the Month in February 2020. His social media presence skyrocketed and with it his commitment to his medical profession to give something back.
Dreaming of getting more vets out on the streets to help pets, he says, “Everyone has the power to help – you can volunteer at an animal shelter or donate money or time.” He also urges those with the greatest Power and Impact out to help – the bigger vet companies. He says they have the resources, hospitals, and structure to make a significant difference, and hopes they will be inspired by his successes, lessons learned, and mindset.
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