An ‘unsung hero’: ‘Dr. Jen’ is Kitsap’s best animal advocate

When Eric Stevens joined Kitsap Humane Society, the non-profit agency dedicated to caring for animals in need, in 2012, she struggled to keep its doors open. His dire financial situation had impacted the agency’s ability to provide services to homeless animals and their adoptive owners.

“The organization was on the verge of bankruptcy,” Stevens said in a Kitsap Humane Society video. “We had had some financial difficulties, but we had lost a lot of credibility in the community.

Fortunately for Stevens and KHS, Dr. Jen Stonequist, DVM, recently joined us and quickly became a partner in the effort to re-establish the organization. Necessary but painful cuts to the agency’s budget have required Stonequist – KHS ‘director of shelter medicine – and staff to work twice as hard over three years until he can regain his financial footing.

Even overcoming the effects of the cutbacks, Stevens said Stonequist – known affectionately to staff members as “Dr. Jen – has also worked to improve KHS animal services.

“It has always been his vision,” he said. “Better services for animals – she has always lived that vision. Dr. Jen is a role model for excellent animal care.

Slowly but steadily, Stevens said the organization’s financial situation had strengthened and its image and image had improved in the community. Dr Jen was at the center of this dual effort, he said. The executive director said her passion for animal care was demonstrated by her leadership in changing laws in Washington state that prevented nonprofits, especially humanitarian companies, from providing veterinary care. beyond sterilization and sterilization services to low-income families.

Changing state laws for animals

When Stonequist moved to that state after earning a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Western University Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif., She was shocked to learn that state laws prevented KHS from providing low-cost care. To animals.

“Dr. Jen felt it was unfair and was really determined,” Stevens said, noting the passionate vet was relentless, but positively, to change the laws.

“Every week, when people came to us with their pets, whether they had an emergency or had chronic medications that they couldn’t afford, the only thing we could provide these families was to come to the shelter, ”Stonequist said. .

“It was one of the hardest things for me to do, tear families apart to save lives. It was then that I knew that this archaic law really had to be challenged.

Dr. Jen Stonequist is a busy woman, ranging from volunteering to help animals in Baja Mexico at her own expense to training fellow veterinarians on the principles of mindfulness in their practices. (Courtesy photo)

Due to Stonequist’s advocacy work leading to a change in state law, Dr Nicolle Perisho, DVM – KHS board member and small animal veterinarian herself – said today hui, other options involving low-cost care are now available. Perisho also said that she personally benefited from her association with the KHS veterinarian and sought his mentorship after graduating from veterinary medicine.

Shannon Orr, KHS board member, said Dr Jen’s passion for animals and compassion for pet owners is on display every day at the animal welfare organization. And that passion doesn’t end when the vet isn’t at work. Stonequist volunteers his days off helping out at other clinics and mentoring young vets entering the field.

Help south of the border

The “rock star” vet, as Orr calls Dr. Jen, is well known for her volunteer work in Baja Sur, Mexico, helping sick and homeless animals. Dr David Rose, MD, who founded Patrons of Animal Welfare (PAW) there, said Kitsap’s vet volunteered there, taking vacations from the humanitarian society and paying his own travel expenses. She also travels to Mexico with suitcases filled to the brim with animal toys, dog collars and leashes.

Rose said the local community her organization serves in Baja Sur have come to know and trust Dr Jen for his volunteer work. He said when PAW first opened 25 years ago, animals weren’t considered pets. But with a collar and leash attached to a dog, attitudes change and their care becomes important. And the visiting vet takes advantage of this change in attitude by interacting with pet owners in the community as she walks down the street, approaches their pets, and often offers to vaccinate them.

“She does so much and is a leader in her field at the regional and national levels, but she is extremely humble,” Rose said of Stonequist. “You would never know all she does and all the positive impacts she has. [Dr. Jen] everything remains discreet but does an incredible job every day. His dedication is incredible.

Perisho said that Dr. Jen has also taken it upon herself to educate herself on the topic of mindfulness and created a “Mindfulness in Veterinary Medicine” mental health support counseling program that she offers free of charge to vets who wish to learn more about how to deal with death and illness.

“She’s a resource for other veterinary professionals out there,” she says. “She cares about the animal and the family behind the animal. It’s huge.”

Stonequist’s “tenacity” in his dedication to animals will be best visualized in the community when the new KHS Veterinary Rescue and Community Clinic opens in 2023, giving people access to affordable veterinary care. And last week, Dr. Jen was honored by the non-profit organization Petco Love with a $ 10,000 grant for KHS and a nomination as a finalist for his “Unsung Hero” award.

But in Kitsap County and within the boundaries of the Kitsap Humane Society, it’s common knowledge. Dr. Jen has always been an unsung hero.

Board member Orr said it best: “She’s a hero to me and she’s a hero to our community. ”