Dr Suzanne Saueressig, the first practicing female veterinarian in Missouri and a tireless advocate for the humane treatment of animals, has died at the age of 88.
Dr Saueressig died on February 8. She joined the Humane Society of Missouri in 1955 and served as chief of Veterinary Services from 1965 until 1997 and continued her veterinary practice at HSMO until 2010.
“The animal world has lost one of its most dedicated and tenacious advocates with the death of Dr. Suzanne Saueressig. Her exceptional intellect and tireless devotion to improving the lives of animals in need helped more than a million animals during the course of her career,” said Humane Society of Missouri President Kathy Warnick.
“In addition, she helped build the Humane Society of Missouri into one of the largest and most active animal welfare organizations in the country. Her heartfelt mentoring of veterinary students and staff won her legions of loyal supporters as well as new advocates for the cause of improving the lives of animals.
“While her own voice has been silenced, her devotion to animals in need will be carried own through the many she befriended and mentored through the years in her quest to make the world a better place for man’s best friend,” Warnick said.
Born in Germany on February 4, 1924, Dr. Saueressig graduated from the University of Munich Veterinary College in 1953 and completed her doctoral dissertation magna cum laude in 1954. In 1955, she travelled to the US to gain hands-on animal experience, intending to study for one year. Instead, she remained at the Humane Society of Missouri for the next 55 years.
When she joined the clinic, it was understaffed and underequipped. Two veterinarians – one part-time, one full-time – worked in two hot rooms attached to the animal shelter. Soon after joining the Humane Society, she was put in charge of the fledgling facility and its rotating staff of interns. One of the interns was Richard Riegel, DVM. They married in 1956 and resided in Richmond Heights.
When Dr Saueressig was named Chief of Staff in 1965, she began a crusade to update the clinic and add surgical facilities. Her first surgeries were spays and neuters of dogs belonging to Humane Society staff members. From the beginning of her career, Dr Saueressig was an advocate for the need to spay and neuter pets as the means to end animal suffering caused by overpopulation. Unlike today, there was neither awareness of the need, nor inclination to limit pet reproduction.
In 1972, she was honored as national “Woman Veterinarian of the Year” by the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association not only for her work on behalf of the profession but also for inspiring dozens of young people to become veterinarians. In 1983, she was honored as a Leader of Distinction and inducted into the YWCA Metro St. Louis Academy of Leaders. Dr Saueressig also served on many veterinary and community organizations.