Kwane Stewart (D.V.M., ’97) grabs his backpack and heads to L.A.’s Skid Row. Over the past 12 years, the San Diego-based veterinarian known as “The Street Vet” has volunteered his time and expertise, traveling the streets of California cities to give free veterinary services to pets of individuals experiencing homelessness.
“I have it down to a science,” Stewart says. “I can treat 80% of cases I see out of my backpack.”
Most cases are routine vaccinations, antibiotics, allergies, and skin and ear infections. The remaining cases are referred for more complex free care at area clinics.
“There’s always follow-up care too,” Stewart says. “I give everyone my personal cell number, because I am their vet. I want to make sure they can reach me in time of need.”
With the launch of his nonprofit Project Street Vet in 2020, Stewart has been expanding his reach, rallying volunteer teams in seven cities (and growing) across the country to provide care for the pets of the unhoused at no charge. The organization’s motto: No judgment. Just help.
“Over the years, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the homeless as pet parents. Their loyalty to their pet is unmatched,” Stewart says. “They will refuse a free meal or housing if it means their pet can’t stay with them. They rely heavily on their pet for stability, companionship, and hope. They are the best pet owners I’ve ever met.”
From secret to small screen
For the first five years, Stewart provided his services in secret. “It was my own thing,” Stewart says. “I wasn’t doing it for attention. It was healing for me.”
But word started getting out during his six-year tenure as the chief veterinary officer at American Humane, where he directed the No Animals Were Harmed program that monitors the health of animal actors in filmed media.
A supportive producer secured funding for The Street Vet, a 12-episode docuseries chronicling Stewart’s outreach efforts that started airing in 2019 in Canada and Europe.
“The show took things to a higher level, in terms of awareness of how this work is needed,” Stewart says.
He has since become an ambassador for the cause, appearing in numerous media outlets. After his selection as a GoFundMe Hero of the Month in February 2020, the outpouring of donations funded the launch of Project Street Vet.
Since 2021, according to the organization’s website, the PSV team has assisted more than 1,600 pets through June 2023.
“Dr. Stewart is doing an amazing job of raising awareness about this issue,” says Jon Geller (D.V.M., ’95), founder of The Street Dog Coalition, a like-minded nonprofit that mobilizes veterinary professionals in 20 cities to run street clinics for the pets of the unhoused. The two CSU alums have collaborated on a few clinics in San Diego. “There’s an almost infinite need for this care,” Geller adds.
This spring, Stewart was named a CNN Hero. Soon after, he gave the keynote speech, “Kindness as a Superpower,” at the Pacific Veterinary Conference, attended by several of his CSU professors.
“Project Street Vet is about something bigger than just the actual vet care,” Stewart says. “It’s about this global ideal of giving, of helping, of showing kindness and humanity to people who are struggling.”