Suzanne Saueressig, DVM, the first practicing female veterinarian in Missouri and a tireless advocate for the humane treatment of animals, died Friday, February 08, 2013 at age 88. 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.
Born in Germany on Feb. 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 traveled to America 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. Dr. Riegel survives.
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. At the clinic, and in her weekly “Ask the Pet Doctor” column for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat (1979-1985), she unceasingly campaigned for the need to spay and neuter.
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.
Dr. Saueressig is credited with developing the Humane Society of Missouri’s City Headquarters clinic into the vibrant animal hospital it is today. Together with the Westport Area and Chesterfield Valley Centers, the Humane Society of Missouri operates one of the largest veterinary practices in the Midwest.
Although Dr. Saueressig and Dr. Riegel never had children, they had many beloved pets including three cats: Ninny, a one-eyed, black, male domestic shorthair; Sambo, a male black domestic shorthair and Cappuccino, a female long-hair Calico; and Cindy Sue, a female, tri-color rat terrier dog, who are still living.
"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. 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." Kathy Warnick, President, Humane Society of Missouri
Read Dr. Saueressig's obituary in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch
Read the Saint Louis Beacon's tribute to Dr. Saueressig