A Travellerspoint blog

Are you AWARE?

Saving Domestic Animals in Guatemala


My lovely wife Emma is both revered and infamous for her consideration of animals. My favorite story to tell is when she once spent two days with a humane “orange juice trap” to remove a population of fruit flies that had come into our house in search of breakfast bananas. She’d let a ten or so flies enter a glass with a quarter-inch of OJ in the bottom of it, quickly cap it off, then release the offending insects outside, just beyond our doorstep. Most people mocked her about the life span of fruit flies, but it didn’t stop her.

Not surprisingly, Emma has influenced me greatly in this area over the last eight years. In the moment this became clear to me, freshly stung by a scorpion, my first inclination was to scoop it up and throw it out of our cabin rather than squish it. She’s had this effect on loads of others as well. Many people who’ve watched her painstakingly care for or save animals have later contacted us to say the can no longer stomp on a cockroach or spray ants. Of course, as you’ve read before (or, at least, I’ve blogged before), it’s not just a mission to save bugs.


To the point, in my monthly, self-imposed homework to promote the work of an NGO based here in Guatemala, and in honor of my wife’s great effort to spread inter-species peace, I’ve selected Animal AWARE as this month’s NGO:

Animal AWARE (Animal Welfare Association – Rescue/Education), to be clear, is an animal shelter that has been working to improve the lives of domestic animals in Guatemala for over fifteen years now. Located just outside Antigua, the organization’s name has been a byword for me over the last few years, both as a place for tourist to visit (every Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00) or volunteer ($5.00 a day with a place to stay). Currently, the shelter houses more than 400 animals, all of which need love, care, and attention.


In an effort to save Guatemala’s domestic animals, AWARE campaigns, a la Bob Barker, to have pets spay and neutered to prevent more stray animals, including monthly “Castration Days” (ouch!) on which the procedure (as well as spaying) is provided at huge discount. Additionally, it’s the biggest no-kill animal shelter in Central America, looks for both adoptions and sponsorships for its resident animals, and even has program for sending puppies to the States. Therein lies the Rescue side of AWARE.

As the acronym suggests, another large part of the NGO is based on education. One of the many issues going on in Guatemala is the mistreatment of animals. As in many cultures, the value placed on the lives of animals is often viewed no more than their usefulness. Dogs might be tied to a stake for its entire life in order to “guard” something, or when the cute puppy grows up into a dog, it’s abandoned. Street dogs in Guatemala, throughout Central America really, are plentiful and simply hard to look at: matted fur, ribs protruding, often at the end of a swift kick from a child who knows no better. AWARE works to teach those children a different way.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s possible to help the AWARE project by visiting on Sundays or volunteering your time at the shelter, as well as animal sponsorships and adoptions. And, of course, interested parties can bestow a plain old donation to help cover the costs of food, grooming, walking, equipment, and vaccines. Perhaps one of the coolest things going is sponsoring a FeLV cat (a cat with feline leukemia), which would be put to sleep elsewhere but is provided with special separate housing at Animal AWARE.

I hope you’ve found this organization as inspiring as I have, and even if you won’t be found catching fruit flies in an orange juice trap any time soon, remember there are many other ways to help animals. This might be a nice way to start.


  • Don't forget to check out my new Facebook page -- Expat Expeditions: A Life Abroad -- for links to various great travel websites and a variety of articles by yours truly.

Posted by jonathonengels 13:12 Archived in Guatemala Tagged animals ngo expat

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.