She Came South, They Went North

When it comes to why and how Canadians adopt homeless Mexican puppies, there’s nobody better to talk to. It so happens that Alison Sawyer is a Toronto native, and a potter by profession.  However, after vacationing on Isla Mujeres, which is close to Cancún, she decided to move permanently to Mexico. 

However, soon after relocating, she became increasingly concerned about the plight of street dogs on the island. In fact, there was a defining moment when she knew she had to step up and do something about it. And, as you are about to see, the rest is history.

What Isla Animals Does

“We specialize in puppies,” said Sawyer, founder and operator of Isla Animals, a non-profit with its own shelter.

She explained that her partner Trina, and Anna, who is the adoption/transport coordinator, are the only two constant volunteers. However, the other people who help out tend to come and go. Nevertheless, in addition to them, there is a staff of four women who clean and watch over the rescue.  

Next, we delve into the key details of why and how the compassionate people just mentioned here do what they do.

Some of the abandoned dogs being cared for on Isla Mujeres, near Cancún
Some of the abandoned dogs being cared for on Isla Mujeres, near Cancún


In just a moment we’ll discuss flight arrangements for Mexican homeless dogs Canada-bound. But, we need to look at the underlying factors that trigger this need for advocacy work in the first place.


As a result of hard work over a period of 16 years, the feral and street dog population on the island is mostly solved. However, efforts now focus on owners who allow their dogs to wander the streets.

But there is another side to this story as Sawyer explained. “Last July I took with me to Toronto a dog we named Olive. She was in a group of five; two adult dogs and three puppies. We think that they were dumped here from Cancún. This happens all the time. People can’t help a dog but want it in a safer location. For example, a place where there is less traffic.”  She added that, sadly, one of the adults and a pup were in such bad shape they didn’t make it.

The work done by Isla Animals results in decreased puppy populations, fewer cases of parvo and distemper, less dogs in the streets, better awareness of animal care, more islanders walking dogs on a leash, more children visiting the clinic to help and learn
The work done by Isla Animals results in decreased puppy populations, fewer cases of parvo and distemper, less dogs in the streets, better awareness of animal care, more islanders walking dogs on a leash, more children visiting the clinic to help and learn

Spay And Neuter

Like everyone else I spoke to for my research, sterilization is the top priority of animal rescue groups. “The best way to solve dog overpopulation is to prevent them from being born in the first place. But, as part of that, we also never leave a puppy on the streets,” Sawyer emphasized. 

In 2016, Isla Animals performed free surgeries on 1,784 cats and dogs, and 1,766 in 2017. And, as the above table shows, the 2018 number was 2,028. This is nearly a 15 percent increase over the previous year. Most encouraging, it shows the determination to reach more towns and neighborhoods in the future.

Sheltering And Fostering

Fortunately, Isla Animals enjoys a good relationship with the current local government. It has also provided the location where their rescue shelter operates. Sawyer commented that they have fosters who take in puppies until they have been vaccinated. And, since the shelter is not set up for large dogs, they are able to care for more smaller-sized animals.


Working closely with other reputable rescue organizations has proved extremely beneficial. Isla Animals is able to trade rides for adopted and rescued animals. Besides, they also exchange dogs for puppies which, as we already know, is what they specialize in. 

Crated and ready for their trip, Mexican homeless dogs Canada-bound
Crated and ready for their trip, Mexican homeless dogs Canada-bound

And, this brings us to their partnership with Lost Dog Foundation, which I happened to mention in my previous blog. A great part of their work focuses on facilitating the journey of Mexican homeless dogs Canada-bound and US-bound. Pups will either be flying directly to their waiting adoptive family or to temporary foster homes.


So, now we come to a segment that is designed to help Americans and Canadians adopt homeless Mexican puppies.

These are people who are visiting Mexico, or planning to make a trip there from either the USA or Canada. For them the vacation may not only encompass the activities that tourists typically do. Quite possibly they will want to fly back home with a dog or a puppy from Mexico. So, the guide below is a basic must-do check list. It’s especially helpful since it indicates what they need to do before they consider importing a pet.

Why Adopt From Abroad?

Perhaps some of my readers are wondering why tourists from other countries would want to adopt an animal from Mexico. You’re probably thinking there are already many dogs at home waiting to be placed with a forever family. 

Well, let me say that Canadian and US residents do realize that. However, they are also aware that opportunities for adult dogs and puppies to find loving homes are far more limited in Mexico. Consequently, when the opportunity arises, they willingly go through the process to take a homeless pup back with them.

Caring Canadians adopt homeless Mexican puppies so they can have a better future
Caring Canadians adopt homeless Mexican puppies so they can have a better future

Rules, Regulations And Recommendations

Here is the information that Isla Animals gives out to all potential adopters.

First you need to make sure that your airline will take pets, either in with the luggage or inside the cabin. This depends on the size of the animal.

Then you have to find a vet who will vaccinate your dog for canine parvovirus, distemper and rabies. The vet will also make you a health certificate for Customs.

Your dog needs to have had its rabies shot one month before departure.

The dog also has to look health. If it has a lot of skin issues, they won’t let it in.

You will need a carrier, either a hard one for the cargo hold, or a soft one for inside the plane.  It has to be the kind that the airline accepts. If you are buying one it will usually say if it’s airline approved

Be sure to make a reservation with your airline ahead of time.

Also ensure that whatever transportation you arrange to get to the airport will allow animals in their vans or taxis. 

Good luck!

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To make a donation, please email:

To Sum Up

Here are some of the people who deserve credit for the efforts described in this week’s blog. They are the heroes. Thank you for what you do!

  • Isla Animals: Alison Sawyer, Trina, Anna, 4-team shelter staff, and all their volunteers
  • Lost Dog Foundation
  • All non-profit partners in Mexico, USA and Canada
  • All fosters, sponsors and donors
  • The municipal government of Isla Mujeres

Don’t forget to join us next week in Cancún, our final destination on this eye-opening journey. You’ll meet a very special girl called Chica and her dad, mom and orphaned siblings. See you there!

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  

The Complete Series

In case you missed any of the other articles in this series of six, here’s your chance to catch up now.







  1. Excellent article and spot on. Alison, Trina and Anna have put their heart and soul into this organization. Thank you for highlighting this wonderful group.

  2. Thank you, Regina. I have been volunteering with Islaanimals for 10 years. I started out with them doing 150 in a campaign in the Yucatán jungle Puebla. It has been a joy to see what they can do. Thank you for this highlight on Islaanimals.

  3. Thanks for the spotlight in Isla Animals (Alison, Trina and Anna can exhaust you watching their passion!) and all their contributions to a better place for both the dogs and all those that love them. I have volunteered in a miniscule way in past and curse Alison for getting me wrapped up in dog rescue in Mexico and Canada! She has lit many flames in many volunteers…in Isla and beyond!

  4. We have two rescue dogs from Rancho Viejo and a third from PV Mexico. Two are as a direct result of Alison, Anna , Trina and others.

    It is amazing watching this team of womyn save, change the lives of, care for, and love these beautiful animals that are known as meximutts…..and cats too.

    We have just helped with the 2018 stay/neuter clinic and see this as something we will help with yearly.

    Thank you for spotlighting this and acknowledging the years of love, devotion, time, money and resources that have gone into helping to make animals lives better.

      1. We live in Nova Scotia Canada.
        Although like anywhere, there are always animals to rescue. It just seems that the ones at home have a somewhat better chance at survival then the masses here.
        We wouldn’t change a thing about our three little girls…they are all happy, healthy, grateful dogs. 🐾🐾🐾🐶🐶🐶💕💕💕

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