10 Years of Blog Archive

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Where Have All the Stray Dogs Gone?

When we first moved here the stray dogs roaming around Cuenca was a bit disconcerting. There were hungry, sickly dogs roaming around everywhere! We felt sorry  for the weak, scruffy dogs, but we were also fearful they might attack!  Luckily, this has not been the case. In fact, most of the stray dogs in Cuenca are gentle and timid of people.

They mostly roam the streets looking for garbage to eat and sometimes they get thrown some stale bread or old white rice from an Ecuadorian restaurant owner, but these dogs are mostly vitamin deficient and weak. Some of the dogs wobble around on only three legs, while others limp around because they got hit by a car.

Where Have the Dogs Gone?

We have noticed a BIG change in the amount of roaming dogs on the streets here in Cuenca. We remarked about seeing less roaming dogs to one expat lady and she told us there is an expat volunteer program working with a rescue and protection operation called ARCA. Together they are working steadily to pick up stray animals that have been living miserably on the streets of Cuenca. 

UPDATE: January 2014 - For about a year it seemed as if there were less dogs on the streets, but now it seems like there is just as many, or more than before. We know it is difficult to keep the stray dog population down and it's a huge job! 

ARCA is a veterinarian clinic and rescue company in Cuenca that offers low cost treatment for animals; it houses and feeds hundreds of dogs and cats and offers low cost to free spays and neuters to the animals. We have heard they have hundreds of dogs and numerous cats waiting to be adopted into caring homes.

Many of the dogs they rescue are sickly and in need a lot of TLC. After nursing the animals back to health they are put up for adoption into loving homes here in Cuenca. Here is the website for ARCA but unfortunately it is only in Spanish. http://fundacionarca.com/   Try putting it into Google Translate; it does not translate efficiently but it is better than nothing.

Should you bring your pets to Cuenca with you?

If you’re a pet lover and leaving your dog or cat with friends in the US, perhaps you would think about adopting one of these rescued dogs or cats and provide them with a caring home and family. Each new expat that moves to Cuenca and adopts one animal, if they so choose, would be giving these animals the loving homes they deserve. 

In the US it is so very easy to find loving homes for the pets we already have, but here in Ecuador, it is a bit more difficult. The Ecuadorians that have pets have the extra income to feed them nutritionally sound meals and provide a loving home. But many Ecuadorians can’t afford to feed a dog or cat and take care of the upkeep of owning a pet.

BTW…dog and cat food is VERY expensive here. The brands you know and love, and that are the most nutritious cost three to five times more here. One expat lady, who has three cats of her own, told us that one small can of Friskies wet food costs $2. And there aren't any alternatives. So if you have multiple pets you can be spending well over $100 a month on pet food.

On another note,  we have noticed that a lot of the foreigners want to rent furnished and with a yard for their pets, which is almost impossible to find.  And when you find it, the landlords don't want pets!! It is much easier to find, if you own a pet to rent unfurnished. We'll talk more about that in another article.

Anyway, the working Ecuadorians can eat a whole meal on $1.50, plus have $0.50 cents left over to buy a humita or plantain with cheese later on in the day.  And this is the point. It is not in the budget for most Ecuadorians to own even one dog or cat. Not only that, but the up-keep for the animal is not in the budget either. And this is the reason why many animals don’t have a loving Ecuadorian home to go to. This is where you come in.

We’re happy there are so many volunteers that are ambitious to this cause and being proactive about helping these poor animals… and we can bet the animals are also happy! Thank you ARCA and all of its faithful volunteers for a job well done. Keep up all the wonderful work!

ARCA Foundation - http://fundacionarca.com/


  1. Thanks very much for this artuicle. We are a couple with wo dogs we couldn't possibly give up if we decide to live outside of the U.S. We are also volunteers with our local shelter here, so we applaud the work of this org. We saw the same problem in Belize, but I don't think their rescue/neutering efforts are as developed. Should we decide on Cuenca, we will certainly be renting first and will expect to find more vacancies in unfurnished places.

  2. Hi! My name is Sarah. Thanks for the article & I love your youtube video's too! I am an animal lover too and that’s why I wanted to send you this article below. The article is about a young guy in Montanita who is desperately trying to help the street dogs in Montanita, who are in such bad shape, injured, often with broken bones & gaping wounds, left to die in the streets & starving to death. There is a massive problem there now too, and it is getting worse by the day and he is trying really hard to get people to help. I am trying to help put the word out to all animal loving expats in Ecuador to see if we can all connect and help each other in any way we can. If you know of anyone heading to the Montanita area or anyone even thinking of visiting the area, please mention it to them and help to get the word out – they are so desperate for any help, especially from volunteers. I’ll be moving to Ecuador in about 6 months time and hope to meet you then.
    take care and thank you again
    Kind Regards,

    The Stray Dogs of Montanita: Your Chance to Help Man’s Best Friend

    Anybody who has lived in or traveled through developing countries before will be familiar with the sight of stray dogs. They are so heartbreaking to see so underfed, diseased and suffering. These poor stray dogs are not properly cared for, or neutered, and are left free to roam the streets, multiplying rapidly in the process. There is never enough food to go around and the dogs often end up dying of starvation or from diseases or injuries.

    Here in Ecuador’s most famous surf town, Montanita, stray dogs are Everywhere. I’ve noticed them everyday, people constantly swerving to avoid running over the dozens of dogs lying in the middle of the road in a suicidal manner, too tired to even move.

    Although they may look rough, they really just want to be loved. Just a simple pat on the head and these dogs will collapse in joy. But at the end of the day, nobody looks after them, there is not enough food to go around, and many of them will catch diseases and suffer painful deaths. So what can we do to help alleviate some of the suffering of these innocent creatures?

    Barak Epshtein first arrived in Montanita nine months ago and set up “CafĂ© del Mar” on one of the main streets in town. Everyday Barak sees the dogs around the town and he is sick of seeing their suffering. “Nobody cares about the dogs here, nobody is doing anything to help them,” he says. But he has an idea. Barak is appealing to veterinarians from around the world to come and help - live in Montanita for a month, or longer, and work in a clinic neutering and treating the town’s stray dogs for diseases.

    Obviously the best way to help the dogs is by giving them homes, however in places with large stray populations, like Montanita, neutering the dogs and treating them for common diseases is a great first step.

    Barak will provide a suitable clinic for the treatment of the animals, and other people and businesses in town, such as Montanita Spanish School, will be providing the materials needed. Many others will be volunteering their time to assist with the program in other areas.

    In return, the suitable applicant will have a comfortable apartment to stay in and all food provided for their time in Montanita.

    So if you, or anybody you know, is interested in helping the dogs of Montanita, and have a background as a veterinarian and/or in neutering and caring for animals, then please email the school at this address: info@montanitaspanishschool.com and we can put you in touch with Barak. Start dates and time frames are all flexible.

    Warm Regards,


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