SAN DIEGO – Pets are usually nicknamed man’s best friend, but when the four paws is the only companion you have, they are much more than a friend.
“She’s always been a help, you know through times of depression or just anxiety, the best friend is there for you to be a good distraction,” said pet parent Jay, who lives in low-income housing in San Diego with his furry best friend Loyal.
Loyal was one of countless pets that Dr. Kwane Stewart treated Monday morning near the corner of 14th and Imperial in downtown San Diego.
Dr. Stewart, a veterinarian with 25 years of experience, started Project Street Vet in 2020 to help pets and their owners, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford pet care. He noticed a need on Skid Row in Los Angeles, and recently expanded to a full-service care in San Diego.
”I pack a bag, it contains basic kit of which I can treat about 80% of the cases, I see,” Dr. Stewart said. “It’s vaccinations, deworming and flea and tick.”
Dr. Stewart said about 20% of people who are unhoused have pets, and he typically doesn’t have to walk far to find a pet that’s in need of help. After taking care of just one dog outside of low-income housing and a commonly unhoused-occupied street in downtown San Diego, there was a line to be seen by Dr. Stewart Monday morning.
“I’m reaching a population of pets that ordinarily wouldn’t get care, maybe never get care,” Dr. Stewart said.
The pet parents Dr. Stewart encountered Monday were extremely grateful for his services for their four-legged best friends.
“I treat him like my kid, I go get his food before I go get mine,” Tyrone, a homeless veteran with a 2-year-old dog named Boss, said to FOX 5 in an interview Monday, after being treated by Dr. Stewart. “When you’re feeling down or something like that he will come up and lick your face or just simply lay on your feet or look up at you with those eyes and just simply fixes everything you know.”
Project Street Vet is a nonprofit run entirely off donations. Stewart said his free of charge services aren’t only helping the animals, but is also giving their owners peace of mind.
“It means the world when you don’t have the funds to go to the veterinarian hospital or something like that,” one of the pet owners said Monday.
Dr. Stewart and the other veterinarians on the team donate their time. By purchasing discounted medications and vaccinations, plus a sponsorship by Fetch Pet Insurance, the services are free, saving those who need it, hundreds to thousands of dollars.
“If you took your dog in for basic exam… its anywhere between $125-$150,” Dr. Stewart said. “For $10 I can potentially vaccinate four or five pets.”
He said he first helped an unhoused man and his dog with a flea problem more than a decade ago and watched the dog become a “brand new” dog again in just a week. He said since then he knew that was his calling.
Dr. Stewart has seen some pets multiple times, sets up appointments for more extensive care such as being spayed, neutered, teeth care, and also gives out his contact information should anything further arise to ensure all pets are cared for, no matter their living condition.
“I just enjoy the work, it’s really rewarding, I was taught at a young age to give back beyond what I am paid to do,” he added.
Through the end of 2023, Fetch Pet Insurance is matching all donations to Project Street Vet, up to $101,000.