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Crusading vet treats some of LA's most cherished residents: The pets of skid row

Salvador Hernandez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

LOS ANGELES — Kilo, a muscular gray pit bull, stood staunchly by his homeless owner in the middle of 6th Street on L.A.'s skid row. His tongue lolled out, and his wide, square jaw was open as if he was grinning ear to ear.

"Is this your boy?" Dr. Kwane Stewart asked as he walked toward the pair.

Hector Abadin yanked on Kilo's chain leash and turned to walk away without saying a word.

"I'm a veterinarian," Stewart said. "I walk the area and find pets like yours and give free medical care."

Abadin stopped. He'd been living on the street for the last year, and this was the first time he'd had a chance to get medical care for Kilo or his other four-legged companions. He looked down at the dog, then up at Stewart.

"I have his girlfriend at home," he said in Spanish, pointing to Kilo. "She had puppies today. Come!"


For 12 years, exchanges like this have made up much of Stewart's free time. About twice a month, the San Diego veterinarian makes his way to homeless encampments in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties, looking to provide free medical care to the pets of unhoused people. He comes ready with medicines, vaccines, syringes and treats, offering to see the dogs and cats there on the street.

He's treated pets for extreme flea infestation, worms and, sometimes, broken bones. He's answered homeless owners' questions on how to care for their animals with the limited resources they have, and he's listened to their struggles and pride-filled stories about their furry friends. They know him as the "Street Vet."

"These people out here who own pets, they're looking for a normal life, they're trying to get on their feet, they value companionship and they need it," Stewart said. "There are some people out here who can educate you about being a pet parent."

It's a challenging task, Stewart admits, but a rewarding one. That's why he has continued to make his way under freeway bridges, into tents on the sidewalks and into homeless encampments, looking for anyone with a pet. And it takes no time at all for him to find them.


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