Kwane Stewart, a California veterinarian, is helping homeless pets in need of medical care and dispelling the stigma against homeless pet guardians.

Known as the “Street Vet,” Stewart started treating dogs and cats on the streets of California after the 2008 financial crisis hit, which forced a number of people and pets into homelessness.

“Modesto got hit especially hard,” he told CNN. “It was ground zero for California as far as job loss and home loss, and people were just dumping their pets in shelters.”

“That was the moment for me career-wise that was enlightening,” Stewart continued. “Up until then, I’d been practicing high-end medicine for clients who could pay for everything.”

Rather than continue practicing as the county veterinarian for Stanislaus County in Modesto, Calif., the “Street Vet” set up a soup kitchen in 2011 and offered free pet check-ups to passersby.

“There was something about it that I loved,” he recounts. “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.”

The generous vet covers simple procedures and medications out-of-pocket, while raising money for more costly care like major surgeries through GoFundMe. In the nine years that he has been running his selfless operation, he has treated about 400 animals.

Stewart’s ambitions remind us that animals are a part of America’s growing homelessness crisis, and we must take a multifaceted and cooperative approach to defeating this complex issue.

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