Animal sanctuary disbands, ranch for sale

KOHALA — New homes were found for dozens of rescued pigs, sheep, goats, cows, donkeys, horses and geese around the island late last fall after the closing of Avalon Animal Sanctuary in Kohala.

“Our hearts were broken by having to leave most of our animals in Hawaii,” Doreen Virtue said, who left the island with her elderly parents in November to meet her husband, Michael, at their new home in Washington State. “We couldn’t afford to fly the farm animals here so we found good homes for them in Kona, Waimea, Hawi, Hilo, Puna and Volcano. We miss them dearly, and I cry when I see photos of them. Most of them we rehomed without asking for a fee.”

Nearly all of their dogs and cats joined them at their new residence off island.

“We flew our pets on three separate flights. Debbie Cravatta of KARES helped us and was so sweet,” Virtue said. “That took a great deal of planning and expense too.”

Running the rescue ranch was exceedingly expensive, Virtue said, mounting from the initial costs of buying the animals — to keep them from being slaughtered — and paying for them to be neutered or spayed, to dental care, hoof care, X-rays, grooming, food, care and ranch maintenance.

“We made the mistake of rescuing and not rehoming, as most rescue facilities do,” Virtue said. “We should not have attempted to keep all the animals after they were rescued.”

Last year they received individual donations to the rescue program totaling nearly $4,000.

“We appreciated each and every donation. Most of them were around $5 or $10, which we realized was a lot of money to the donator,” Virtue said, “But it wasn’t enough to sustain even one week of expenses.”

Financially forced to put the ranch up for sale, the nearly 35-acre estate is on the market through Hawaii Life real estate company. The couple’s rescued birds remain there, with their feed and care funded by the Virtues until the ranch sells.

“We had some wild boars from our ranch rounded up and released free range because they were endangering others on the ranch,” Virtue added.

The couple had rescued and housed nearly 300 animals, including birds, at their safe refuge before leaving.

“She was a wonderful neighbor and an asset to the community. We miss her,” Cravatta said.