Isla Animal Rescue: fighting for animal rights in Mexico

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By Brontë Schiltz
Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, is just five miles long and home to 23,000 people – and many stray animals cared for by Isla Animal Rescue. Now, local authorities have evicted the charity from its long-term headquarters. Founder Alison Sawyer told Street News more about the organisation’s inception, vital work and uncertain future.
“I moved to Isla Mujeres in 1999,” says Alison Sawyer, now 70 and originally from Canada. “At the time, I was a fulltime potter and had no experience with animal rescue, but the island was absolutely crawling with sick, starving, scared dogs.
“Some of them were wild and every now and then, one of them would bite someone, and then the government would go out and electrocute dogs, but of course they could never catch the wild ones, so it was just a show.
“There were also puppies everywhere because there was no vet on the island at the time. There are three ways to get to Cancun from the island: a people ferry, which doesn’t allow dogs; a car ferry, which does, but only if you have a car to keep them in; and private boat.
“So, if anyone wanted to spay or neuter their animal, they had to pay for transportation and the vet, which most people couldn’t afford, so they ended up with puppies they couldn’t care for and had to abandon them after they were weaned. These puppies were everywhere, so I took in every puppy I could find. At one point, I had 65 animals at my house.”

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