The Great Recession that hit the US in 2007, marked the beginning of an especially difficult decade for many lower-mid class citizens, that found themselves being forced to live on the streets. California was hit hardest, with 151,278 of the 500,000 people counted as homeless last year, living within its borders.
Apart from making countless people homeless, The Great Recession of 2007, also drove many people to dump their pets, and thus flooded the streets of California with countless stray animals. Dr. Stewart Kwane, a 49-year-old vet, couldn’t just stand aside and watch this happen. With the help of his son and girlfriend, Dr. Kwane set up a table at a local soup kitchen and offered the homeless people who didn’t give up on their pets, free veterinary services. “There was something about it that I loved. I did it one more time before I decided to just take it to the street and walk to homeless people instead of waiting for them to walk up to me.” He later told CNN.
Now, Dr. Kwane spends his weekends walking around the less polished parts of California like skid row in LA, and downtown San Diego, looking for homeless pet owners who need his assistance.
He covers minor cases like ones that only require some food, vaccinations, or a bit of medicine, out of his own pocket. The more severe cases, that call for a more invasive treatment at his clinic, and usually cost pet owners thousands of dollars, are covered by funds collected on his GoFundMe page. Kwane estimates that so far, he had helped over 400 homeless-owned pets in this manner.
Dr.Kwane helping “Crazy Girl”, a pet of a homeless person suffering from colon cancer
Dr. Kwane shares his heartwarming stories in his TV show, “Dr. Kwane: The Street Vet,” which is broadcasted in over 30 countries. He hopes that the show would help him fight the many misconceptions people tend to have on homeless people and particularly homeless pet owners: “I had my own prejudgments, like a lot of people, about homeless people before I started doing this work. 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.”
Kwane added that these homeless pet owners, don’t only face judgment and discrimination on a daily basis, but also the misconception that they are incapable of caring for a pet, a belief that he claims, is completely untrue: “These homeless people take care of their pets even better than we do,” he added. “When they own a pet, it engenders this generosity. They always make sure their pet is fed. Medically is where they need help.”
Dr. Kwane believes that at times, a pet could mean much more for a homeless person. These people often face physical abuse, police harassment, and even people that spit or throw food at them out of their car window. Their pets are at times, the only form of mental support and friends that they have.
Grateful homeless man cries as Dr.Kwane treats his dog Goldie
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You can also visit his YouTube channel to enjoy many more of his wonderful stories here