Cuenca Animal Causes And Volunteer Opportunities

Cuenca Animal Causes and Volunteer Opportunities

This article is a continuation of our Cuenca Volunteer Series. We previously looked at Cuenca volunteer opportunities and today we’re introducing you to local animal welfare specialist and “matchmaker”, Jo Austin. We’re also sharing the work of some non-profit organizations in the Cuenca area which need your help to rescue and otherwise promote animal wellbeing.

Animal welfare in Ecuador, particularly dogs & issues associated with street dogs, can be difficult for outsiders to understand. It’s a loaded topic full of emotion and cultural differences. The focus of this article isn’t to illustrate the problem but to showcase some practical ways that you can be part of the solution.

Let’s dig in.

Jo Austin – Animal Welfare Specialist & Matchmaker

Jo Austin with Ande – a beautiful dog they rescued from a street in El Vergel, Cuenca.

Much of the information for the article is sourced from Jo Austin, a Cuenca resident of 4 ½ years who is an animal champion and active participant in solving their problems. Working with the organizations described below, she has developed an excellent understanding of their needs and capabilities.

Jo is from Seattle, WA, USA, where she volunteered with various animal shelters for over 25 years. She specialized in the successful facilitation of cat adoptions, whilst interacting with the staff and the public.

Jo moved to Cuenca in late 2017 and since then has been providing volunteer animal welfare services to individuals, shelters/rescues, and veterinarians. Services she contributes to these organizations include:

  • Pet adoptions
  • Rescues (such as this one)
  • Rehome
  • Spay & neuter clinics
  • Fundraisers
  • Sterilizations for feral cats, and
  • Making blankets for shelter dogs. 

Matching Pets to Households

One of her particular specialties is matching households with animals needing homes. Jo is skilled at writing and posting ads about these animals, and then fielding and screening respondents.

Jo enjoys working with individuals by sharing best practices related to resolving common pet issues in the home.

Jo is also a good resource for reporting and rehoming of pets at risk of abuse or neglect.

Adopt a Pet

Looking to adopt a pet? Jo will go to work for you utilizing her robust network of resources available in Cuenca, drawing from pets that need homes from the organizations mentioned below. Her goal is to place pets in permanent, loving homes, taking into account the potential adopters’ preferences, current household situation (kids, other pets, space, etc) and prior experience with the particular breed, age and type of pet. She tries to dispel any unrealistic expectations before pets are adopted and she’s always looking for the best possible fit.   

Peruse a selection of pets (currently mainly focused on dogs with some cats) available for adoption in YapaTree’s Cuenca Adopt a Pet section. However, Jo advises that only a small number of the adoptable pets are posted there and that she has access to info about many others.

Sidenote – Jo could also use some help taking photos & writing descriptions of pets available for adoption. Reach out to her below if you think this is something you’d like to help out with.

How to Contact Jo

Interested in learning more including where to volunteer for animal groups in the Cuenca area? Jo can help you discover your natural niche from opportunities at all the organizations listed below and others. And she provides the services described here without cost. 

Jo Austin contact

Cuenca Pet Rescue Organizations

There are numerous groups here that provide housing, rescue and rehoming for animals. We’ve included profiles for several of these below to help you start your search. 

How To Help

Some noteworthy needs for many of them are finding ways to automate collections of donations and help with fundraising. If you can offer your expertise in these areas, you are definitely needed. There’s always a need for volunteers to assist with dog-walking duties too.

Also feeding the animals is a constant challenge and your donations help these animals from suffering from hunger and malnutrition health issues.

Fundacion ARCA

ARCA and Kim Curls

Fundacion ARCA – Animal Rescue and Spay/Neuter is a registered foundation based in Cuenca. An extension of this group, Spay Vets, has completed over 20,000 sterilizations since its founding. So, this group has had a big impact in reducing pet overbreeding, performing 135 or more procedures over each weekend work party.

Kim Curls, a Cuenca volunteer leader of many years, helps organize the twice-monthly weekend work parties into two 4-hour shifts which assist with the animals before and after the vet procedures. The work often occurs outside of Cuenca but volunteers make it home at night. 

Contact Kim Curls to volunteer:


FAAN Animal Protection Cuenca

FAAN Fundación Familia Amor Animal is a non-profit organization located in Tarqui dedicated to the protection, awareness, and defense of animal rights.

It focuses on caring for and finding homes for abandoned animals, animal sterilization and raising awareness for animal respect. It provides medical attention and social rehabilitation if required. FAAB is financed by individual donations and other fundraising activities like raffles, selling donated items, and events.

If you speak Spanish, contact the group directly through:

Non-Spanish speakers should contact Jo Austin (Whatsapp +593995357387) and Jo will steer you towards ways you can help. If you submit a message via any of FAAN’s pet adoption listings on YapaTree, these will be sent to Jo at first instance.


MCA Animal Welfare Group Cuenca

MCA – Movimiento Conciencia Animal  The group was created on March 20, 2011, to promote respect for animals and their environment. Members are non-profit activists united to raise awareness, prevent and act against animal suffering and mistreatment. The group, as do most, focuses on pet adoptions.

MCA doesn’t own a shelter. Instead, they are comprised of a network of volunteers who foster the homeless animals until adoption. There is a need for more foster homes.

If you speak Spanish, contact the group directly :

Non-Spanish speakers should contact Jo Austin (Whatsapp +593995357387) and Jo will make act as the conduit between you and MCA. If you submit a message via any of MCA’s pet listings on YapaTree, these will be sent to Jo at first instance.

Patán Animal Rescue

Patan Animal Rescue

Patán Animal Rescue is a non-profit organization, located near Cuenca. It is actively involved in helping animals in need, providing vet care and shelter for many animals until they find a permanent home. You can find some listings from Patan Animal Rescue on YapaTree’s Pet Adoption section.

Contact Patan Animal Rescue:

PAWS with Hope

Paws with Hope Cuenca

PAWS with Hope is a 5 year old, smaller, Cuenca-based rescue organization that posts pictures of adoptable dogs, and updates about the organization. They care for between 10 and 20 dogs and cats at any given time, but do not have space for more. They need help with dog walking and it helps if you are big and strong enough to walk some of the older animals.

Contact the English-speaking, volunteer manager:

Donate to PAWS with Hope at

Wrapping Up

We hope this article has given you the practical information you need to start digging into your own volunteer search in Cuenca. The amazing local animal welfare specialist and “matchmaker”, Jo Austin, is an excellent resource for expats that are looking for a bridge to Cuenca’s animal welfare organizations.

Looking to help by adopting a pet? We suggest periodically keeping an eye on our Adopt a Pet Platform to find a deserving forever friend such as Lucy, Maya and Bianca, or Pickles.

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