An elevated train clangs overhead. Veterinarian Kwane Stewart queries someone standing near a parked RV. Got pets in need of medical help? California’s “Street Vet” targets areas of widespread homelessness—where pets and their people have little access to care.
The RV dweller is Michael Evans. He and Bear live beneath rumbling San Francisco commuter trains. Evans accepts a free exam for the dog. Stewart applies a triple treatment drop of antibiotic, anti-fungal, and steroids for Bear’s ear infection. Then he hands over a list of medicine and his contact information in case Bear needs further treatment.
Stewart’s bond with animals began early. He saw The Black Stallion movie at age seven and knew he would be “an animal doctor.” After vet school and years of routine practice, he encountered a flea-infested dog outside a convenience store. He’d seen the homeless owner and canine before but had looked away. This time, Stewart promised he’d return with medicine. He did, and the dog “was just transformed.”
Stewart changed too. He began seeking out needy animals.
For a decade, Stewart has treated pets among California’s homeless population. In 2020, he founded Project Street Vet, a charity that helps homeless pets. He funded the work himself for years. Later, he sought sponsors and donors.
Today, Stewart regularly walks Los Angeles’ streets looking for pets. According to a homeless pet advocacy group, up to 10% of U.S. folks experiencing homelessness have pets. Stewart believes that number is greater.
Misty Fancher and pit bull Addie live in an unstable neighborhood. “She keeps a lot of trouble away,” Fancher says.
Stewart asks, “Can she have treats so we can make friends?” He examines Addie’s paw and administers a rabies shot. He also gives de-worming tablets and flea and tick treatment—and always his contact information.
The Street Vet seeks customers among tents, makeshift structures, and campers. A bowl or animal toy usually signals a pet. He wears a scrub top with his name—so no one mistakes him for police or animal control.
Stewart hopes to make a small difference for those who “live amongst us but not with us.” His work and the hardship stories affect him emotionally. But he no longer looks away. “I see a pet in need,” he says. “And I see a person who cares for [it] dearly—who just needs some help.”
If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? — 1 John 3:17
Why? Kindness and generosity are good choices of action. Humans are God’s prized creation, but God says a righteous person cares for “the life of his beast.” (Proverbs 12:10)