Local News & Events

Puerto Vallarta • Riviera Nayarit 

Victoria Animal Lover's Passion Inspires Documentary

Times Colonist
go to original
December 28, 2014

Victoria filmmaker and animal advocate Erin Skillen gets a little love from Paco, a chihuahua terrier she rescued while filming the documentary Vets Without Borders in Mexico.

Erin Skillen had already witnessed the plight of endangered animals in foreign countries before she was profoundly moved by her encounter with a little black puppy on death’s door while vacationing in Cuba.

“It came down to looking into the eyes of a dog dying on the beach,” said Skillen, recalling her encounter in 2009 with the Cuban canine believed to have been hit by a car. It inspired her new documentary, Vets Without Borders.

...Skillen, 35, has already gathered most of the footage for her passion project featuring two teams of volunteer veterinarians and vet techs who spend their vacation time working at free mobile clinics in communities in Mexico and Guatemala, where there’s little or no veterinary care.

It focuses on the Mexi-Can Vet project, launched in 2010 by Dr. Malcolm Macartney, owner of Mackenzie Veterinary Services in Saanich, and Ottawa-based Veterinarians Without Borders.

Footage includes shots of volunteers nurturing a puppy in Mexico that had eaten poisoned fish. The dog’s owners gave her away because they couldn’t afford vet care.

While Mexi-Can’s priority is to provide spaying/neutering services and improve animal welfare, volunteers also bring some rescue dogs back to Canada for adoption.

In Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, Skillen, accompanied by cameraman Mike Wavrecan, rode in the back of a pickup truck while she was four months pregnant to document Mexi-Can spaying and neutering 200 street dogs in La Penita, near Puerto Vallarta.

She was also struck by a very young Mexican volunteer’s passion while watching a surgical procedure. Dog-loving children who volunteer at these clinics share health-care tips with their families.

“I pictured this little girl growing up to be a vet,” Skillen said. “To see the smiles on the faces of the local kids when they’d be given a new leash and collar for their dog was amazing.”

The documentary’s chief purpose, she says, is to encourage owners to spay and neuter their pets.

“There are so many problems in the world we can’t fix,” says Skillen.

“This is something that is fixing a problem. Year after year, fewer dogs are roaming the streets.”

Skillen is well aware some might question how worthwhile it is for Canadian veterinarians to be saving dogs in foreign countries.

“I feel a dog is a dog and they deserve the same compassion elsewhere in the world,” she said, emphasizing volunteers aren’t just improving the lives of dogs...

Read the entire story at Times Colonist

For more information or to make a donation, visit Vets Without Borders online.

Photograph by Adrian Lam, Times Colonist

  Learn more about Mexi-Can Vet Project

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