We vividly remember helping our downstairs neighbor bury his beloved cocker spaniel last year. The dog had fallen victim to distemper, a common Ecuadorian disease we have almost eradicated in the States. As a result, the dog hadn’t been vaccinated against distemper and was gone in less than two weeks despite multiple trips to the vet.
Why bring this up? An increasing number of our clients are telling us they plan to bring their pets with them when they move to Cuenca. While in the US some 61% of Americans routinely travel with their animals (according to the June edition of Prevention magazine), an international move is just not comparable to a weekend getaway in the States. Having grown up with animals ourselves, we get why people want to travel with their pets … but we still ask anyone thinking of bringing their pet to Cuenca to think twice before they travel with their beloved cats, dogs, rare birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, or pet rats. Here’s a short list of why:
Different Pet Culture
Cuencanos have a very different pet culture than what is found in the United States. There are no city-wide leash laws or PooperScooper rules here. Pets are rarely spayed or neutered. Exotic pets are extremely rare, and guinea pigs are a local delicacy. Unpopular local animals (such as yappy dogs or wandering cats) will be poisoned without regret by the neighbors, even if they are normally kept in private yards.
This is not to say there are no spoiled cats or pampered pooches – it’s just that dogs are much more likely to be viewed as a security system than “man’s best friend” in Cuenca. Cats are less common as pets than as mousers, and feral animals of both types roam free in the evenings to hunt for food or beg at doorways, even in your nicer neighborhoods.
Expensive To Import
Along with trying to manage a very different pet culture, there is a significant cost factor involved in bringing a pet to Ecuador. You will need special airline arrangements to get to the country, lists of shots, translated documents, and money for entry fees. Size limits are enforced, as is a per person pet limit for import tax purposes. Some pets have been subjected to quarantine, though this is not common. What is common are high costs and misunderstandings on the Ecuadorian side of the line when bringing in pets, even if you think you have all your papers in order at customs. Though some people do come through with no major issues, plan for extra work at the border when you are traveling with pets.
After costs and culture shock, your pet will also have to deal with new diseases. For this reason alone we encourage you to leave your beloved pets at home for short trips to Ecuador, and consider finding them a new loving home in the States instead of bringing them to Cuenca.
Distemper is just one common but deadly disease new arrivals have to face down. Cuenca has significantly different bacteria and viruses than other parts of the world, leaving new arrivals with sick spells, odd rashes, and surprising allergic reactions.
The high elevation also a strain for non-native animals. A number of older pets have found the adjustment needed to be more than they can comfortably manage. Regardless of your pet’s age, we advise against bringing any animal with a compromised respiratory system to Cuenca as the altitude can be too much.
Food & Medicine Changes
Do you have a picky cat or dog that would rather not eat than eat an “inferior” brand of pet food? Please don’t bring it to Cuenca! Pet food supplies are limited to basic brands. Wet cat and dog foods are very expensive and selection is marginal at best. Dry pet foods are the norm, since many local families feed their animals table scraps rather than shopping for anything fancy.
The same goes for medicines. Most vets use generic brands, and even name brands are often formulated a bit differently here in Ecuador. If you know your pet can’t handle medicinal changes, you will need to either plan to secure a stable supply of the home stuff or leave your pet behind for their own well-being.
Challenging To Find Apartments
Last but not least (from our perspective) bringing a pet to Cuenca makes it very difficult to find a quality apartment. This is doubly true if you are looking for a short-term furnished rental in Cuenca while you choose your final home. Almost all the landlords we know with quality short-term furnished apartments available have no interest in having “animals” in their rentals.
Chalk it up to prejudice, but accept that this is real. No amount of pet deposit is going to make the situation better. Promising angelic behavior doesn’t work either. These landlords have hard experience under their belt with bite marks on wood, lingering animal odors, and lasting flea infestations making their places unrentable to future tenants.
Longer term places give you better odds, but the selection is still limited. Many newer buildings and condo buildings don’t allow pets at all for both noise and sanitary reasons. Others will allow just one pet – generally a small dog or cat – per apartment. Multiple pets are almost always out of the question for new arrivals.
Unfurnished places are somewhat easier for renters looking to bring pets, and especially for those wanting to bring multiple pets. With no furniture in place, landlords are less concerned about damages. Still, expect to answer a number of questions about your animal(s) size, behavior, and habits before winning over hesitant landlords.
We’ve found that stand-alone dwellings or country houses are generally best for pet owners. The trade off is that these properties are often well outside the Centro Historico, and you may have to buy a car if you live far outside the city to keep your pets happy and well.
We don’t mean to sound anti-pet or like we’re loading you up with scary warnings about animal ownership in Cuenca. Bringing a pet to Cuenca is not an impossibility, and we know that many people do it successfully.
Nevertheless, traveling abroad with your pet is a choice you should consider carefully. There’s your own love for your pet to consider, but you should also consider what is in the best long-term interests of the animal. If you think the health and well-being of your pet would be compromised by a move to Ecuador, or if you think you would grow to resent your pet due to its effect on your housing choices, please try to find a good home for your pet before you make your move. You may find that you enjoy a pet-free life, and if after you arrive in Cuenca you still want a pet, there are many local dogs and cats who would love to be taken in by an adoring expat family!Share on Facebook