A peaceful animal kingdom: Local couple rescues animals in need

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KOHALA — Nestled among the pastoral hills of North Kohala, partially submerged in a shroud of mist, sits a little slice of heaven owned by Doreen and Michael Virtue.

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KOHALA — Nestled among the pastoral hills of North Kohala, partially submerged in a shroud of mist, sits a little slice of heaven owned by Doreen and Michael Virtue.

The couple was in search of more room for family — both human and the animal kind — when they found and bought their unique home and 47-acre parcel of land on Hawaii Island. They moved there from Maui last year.

At the time, the family consisted of just Doreen, Michael and a few beloved pets: a small but eclectic collection of dogs, cats and chickens, four horses, two miniature horses, a few pygmy goats and a parrot named Sprout.

But even with a small animal kingdom, the move presented a problem.

“We knew we had only two options to get them here: by boat, which is slow and not very pleasant for animals, or by plane. And not a lot of airlines want to haul goats, chickens or even parrots,” Doreen said. “Our Maui friends were all laughing at us and said, ‘Just leave the chickens,’ but we couldn’t. We love them.”

And so, in a modern-day rendition of Noah’s ark, the adventure began. The animals were transported to Hawaii Island one by one in the back of a single prop Cessna 170.

It was an apropos and auspicious beginning for a home and family destined to become an animal sanctuary in little more than a year. Michael and Doreen call their new home the Avalon Animal Sanctuary, “just like the mists of Avalon.” Their intent for the property is to have a place that’s safe for animals who need rescuing, who are nonaggressive and who need a little love and TLC.

Whether by happenstance or divine intervention, ranch residents now include their original pets to which they’ve added rescued cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs, geese and roosters. There’s also a couple alpaca and a pair of peacocks named Simon and Garfunkel.

Even at a young age, Michael and Doreen were focused on animals. He rescued cats, and she remembers bottle-feeding kittens as a child. She also had a pet skunk named Flower, and loved horses.

Her first job was mucking stalls at a Shetland pony farm in Vista, California in exchange for riding. At age 12, she organized a campaign to protest the shooting of wild mustangs in the Midwest because they were grazing on land needed for cows.

Fast forward to today and the two still cannot bear the thought of any animal being mistreated, abandoned or slaughtered for food. They are vegan — initially for health reasons, but also in visceral response to the butchering process.

Each animal at the sanctuary has a name and all are known by Doreen and Michael, who spend as much time as they can with the animals daily.

“We touch them, feel them, handle them and feed them, making sure they feel wanted and loved,” Michael said.

Not only is it fun to be around them, he added, it’s also important for the animals to feel comfortable around humans, should they ever need medical care or transport.

The animals’ lives today are a far cry from their pasts when each faced maltreatment, slaughter or were simply victims of situations when their owners no longer wanted them, could no longer care for them or both. The sheep, for example, were rescued from a wool farm in Waimea. Doreen and Michael saw an ad on Craigslist for lambs being sold for slaughter.

“The lambs were tiny little things, so cute, and the ad said ‘juicy legs,’” Doreen shudders. “I thought, ‘We have the room for them,’” so they drove their horse trailer there, loaded it with as many lambs as they could and brought them home.

With lambs raised for wool, if they don’t produce the right kind of wool or enough wool, they’re slaughtered, Doreen learned.

“I had no idea. I knew shearing can be painful for the animal but I didn’t realize there is a culling process,” she said. “The sheep don’t crave food as much as they crave affection and they’re also low-maintenance. We’re used to animals who are like ‘feed me, feed me’ but the sheep are like ‘pet me, pet me.’ Now we understand why they’re a symbol of Jesus. They’re so sweet.”

The sanctuary’s pig population started with Missy, another animal advertised for slaughter on Craigslist.

“There was this ad with a pig dressed in a dress, sitting on a satin pillow,” Michael remembered. “The ad said, ‘will make a good pet or a good graduation feast.’”

“A pig who sits on a satin pillow does not belong on a spit,” Doreen thought.

Upon rescuing Missy, they had one pig. But feral boars visited in the night, so soon they had six. Last December, they woke up to find 16 domesticated pigs on their driveway. The pigs had wandered down from a farm above.

“I saw them and instantly knew they came here for a city of refuge,” Doreen said. “Pigs are smarter than dogs and they knew they were being raised for slaughter elsewhere.”

The pigs were purchased from their owner and the males have since been neutered, as must be all males that come into the sanctuary. The only other “rule” is the animals must get along.

“If any animal harms another, they’re out of here,” Doreen said. “We want a peaceful animal kingdom.”

There are countless other touching stories of how animals have arrived at the sanctuary. Noah, a rescued calf, had been found lying next to his mother in a ditch in Waikoloa. His mother had died but Noah was rescued and carried out on horseback by locals. When they could no longer care for him, they contacted Doreen and Michael. He bottle-fed Noah for weeks and also laid by him on the front lawn at 2:30 a.m. to comfort him when he was crying for his mother.

A senior horse came when his owner got too old and couldn’t care for him anymore. Two miniature horses were a little girl’s pets until she got older and was bored with them.

The sanctuary is self-funded but as one might imagine, the feed bill is tremendously expensive. There are also three full-time ranch hands to support, and a contractor who helps with the fencing.

“We’re not a charity so we have to work to make the money,” Doreen says. “It’s enormously expensive and time-consuming, but we love each and every one of the animals so much.”

Doreen toured for 25 years on stage so she has a lot of stage clothes and jewelry she’s been selling on eBay. What she makes in one month of selling approximately 60 items is just about enough to cover the monthly feed bill.

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No matter the cost, every animal is loved and every one receives care.

“It’s all about managing things so the animals have enough to eat, are safe, have their medical and are protected from outsiders,” Doreen said, adding that any animal looking for refuge deserves it. “If you show up here it’s like the place of refuge. If you get here, you’re safe.”

  1. Lisa Frideborg Eddy February 5, 2018 10:54 am

    I would love to see a follow-up on this article since the animal sanctuary was abandoned not long after the publication of this article. Those of us who donated and purchased courses that supposedly funded these animals in their forever homes never managed to get a definitive answer about what happened to the 300+ animals. Nor were those of us who purchased courses that sponsored the sanctuary given refunds.


    1. Jan Littler February 5, 2018 12:37 pm

      Yes it would be very interesting to have a follow up article and to have a definitive answer about those animals. I am concerned about what had happened too


    2. Rebecca Kuehl February 5, 2018 3:22 pm

      I think you need to give this woman a job as a journalist. She’s actually finding the truth!!


      1. Lisa Frideborg Eddy February 5, 2018 9:41 pm

        Thanks – I would LOVE to do articles for an HONEST publication! 😀


  2. Jackie Mckenzie February 5, 2018 11:31 am

    no matter what the cost each animal is loved and recieves care …. what a joke . They had to disband the ‘forever home’ animal sactuary cause they said it used up all thier saving and could no longer afford it . They then went and brought property on the mainland while still owning this one. They are not broke, she is a millionaire. It was all a big con to begin with , to get peoples (like me) hard earned money. Doreen earns more in a paycheck than I will ever earn in my lifetime and it still isn’t enough for her, she has to take money from people who struggle every day. Shame on her and shame on you for promoting it.


    1. Jan Littler February 5, 2018 12:35 pm

      I entirely agree with all you have said Jackie


  3. Kuiaia_aku February 5, 2018 11:59 am

    I would like to see the follow up article, West Hawaii Today!!! That was over 300 animals that they supposedly gave up to one person in a matter of a week??? After months of online solicitations for upkeeping of them… where did the Animals go and their money?

    “No matter the cost, every animal is loved and every one receives care.”


  4. Mira Jonkhoff February 5, 2018 12:07 pm

    I am schocked how nobody in the media is sharing the truth about Doreen Virtue She needs to honest. And takes responsibility for her choices.But when you ask polite a quistion they block you.People save there money to take classes.And the Animals have no mouth to speak up that is really sad.Nobody cares if she is into the lord like they say. But dont lie to the people who invest for so many years like there anti Doreen.The mask came crashing down. there is no Aloha to be found in all this mess. She shows to faces one from the poor and then the other that i see in europe here. No poor story. Yes the countebility is poor.


  5. Mira Jonkhoff February 5, 2018 12:10 pm

    Does she think that the Creator and Christ is not watching her? Hello wake up!


    1. Desiree Stephanie Kramer February 6, 2018 2:55 am

      She just falsely certified hundreds of people in spiritual gifts for money just for attending & class & giving her money in Australia Dec 2017 , against the word of God. That would be full throttle simony . She is still running the Facebook page : Certified Realm Reader where 15,000 people who were all possibly taken for $88-44 a piece are being affirmed they are not even humans as souls. & the page is still pushing these to fans no matter her claims of seeing Jesus … its one big hustle from what I see & she does not fear meeting God for she thinks she will not answer for her harm . Her Angel therapy .com page is pushing a Jesus Christ oracle deck to be used as an oracle deck though Jesus was a holy Jewish rabbi who never pushed divination.. Faith is just an avenue for personal profit for her .. Check out the differences between her April 2017 nde video & her Aug 2017 Jesus testimonial you shall hear totally different stories of when she first had a visitation with Jesus & became born again.


  6. Angelika Hallouane February 5, 2018 12:12 pm

    “If you get here, you’re safe” what a sad sentence when you know that this rescue ranch existed only some months. These animals were not safe as this sentence promises. What happened to them and the donations Doreen Virtue received and asked for in her weekly videos? There was no transparency for the people who donated and cared for the wellbeing of the animals. I hope they have not gone for slaughter. First explanation by Doreen Virtue was that she couldn’t afford the ranch anymore (only after some months as a millionaire? Did she not calculate in advance her costs, how many animals she can feed before taking them?). Her second explanation was that Jesus had other plans for her, so all the animals had to go – from one day to the other, the animals which she loved so dearly as explained in this article. It sounds like a mood swing. Finally why did Doreen Virtue not show to the donors where the animals have gone? This is really strange. Someone who runs an animal ranch by heart has no problem with transparency. It is his own interest because he loves his animals. People have given their money in good faith because they cared, wanted to help rescue animals, give them a forever home and support the project of the Virtue’s. It’s sad that this good faith and trust is challenged. I really hope that there will be further investigations on the matter for the justice and wellbeing of the animals.


  7. Jan Littler February 5, 2018 12:44 pm

    I like everyone else urge the media to start looking into what happened to these animals. The Virtues must be made to be accountable for their actions. They also need to be accountable to all those people who paid good money to them for courses which we cannot get refunds for because they ignore emails and block us from asking questions. The animals deserve some accountability too….they have had no say in any of this. Please make it a priority in your paper.


  8. Marti Johnson February 5, 2018 12:58 pm

    I am, concerned about the animals that were on that ranch. Through course purchases, I helped maintain these animals, and I want to know exactly what happened to each and every one of them. Unfortunately, the Virtues have chosen to shut down websites, delete social media comments asking about the welfare of the animals, and insinuate that they are victims of some kind of spiritual warfare. Actually, it would be very easy for someone to resolve this issue by supplying accurate documentation of the whereabouts of the animals in question. As for the refusal to refund monies to former students who were told they were supporting the care of these animals by purchasing courses, that matter will probably be handled by the courts at a future date.


    1. Desiree Stephanie Kramer February 6, 2018 2:49 am

      You would have to sue Virtue personally at this point from what i have been hearing . Someone has to pay the attorney’s and filing fees. And suing her gets more complicated with her no longer living in the state she defrauded you all from . .. The paper is refusing to do an update on the story . I asked them to do so months ago. .. I contacted them & they said since she moved that the local people would not care of the people she defrauded there as its not local news. I think the local church taking donations from Virtue while she was masively hustling new age people is great local story to get the church to give back all donations she put in the plate to go to her victims.. The paper gave Virtue a false puff up piece with no honest communication as to what Virtue did for a living . This was a set up piece from my view. to get people taken by her by someone she seems to have known her . I would not be shocked if we found the writer of the piece had been client or student of Doreen Virtue’s .. notice how there is totally no occupation as to what Virtue was doing to have stage clothes to auction off…. Virtue has massive online presence & any research on her would she various hustles she was running.


  9. Marie Tomlinson February 5, 2018 12:59 pm

    Please do a follow up,the Animal sanctuary being closed was very sudden and no animals were shown at their new homes,so it would be great to hear they’re doing ok.Not right to promise a forever home and then back out,I have to say I can’t help but be surprised that someone has popular as Doreen would of run out of money to take care of a few animals,and people were donating too!


  10. Rebecca Kuehl February 5, 2018 3:19 pm

    A follow-up article. This woman conned ALOT of people! Even after the animals were relocated she was still accepting donations on her website even though this was never a registered charity!


    1. Desiree Stephanie Kramer February 6, 2018 2:59 am

      I asked the editor to please follow up but he refused to saying the local people would no longer care who she took advantage of since she “moved” . The church took in donation money from her while she was hustling new age people from a mansion while we can show video of her claiming she lived in 1,000 sq foot home.. The paper if they did a follow up article would have to admit their initial writer set people up to be conned.& they don’t want to seem to want to admit hat.. I suspect the local people would be aghast at how many were hurt & if they found the local church had taken money from her while she hustled people in the name of the angels of God.. they might be forced to give donation she gave into a fund to give restitution to some of the victims. St James Episcopal church even promoted her rescue ranch scheme to their church via their Church Facebook page . They leave up photos of her baptism & confirmation giving her validity no matter how many she lies to & hurts.


  11. Donna Davis February 5, 2018 4:58 pm

    This is the most calculated frightening abuse of the defenseless that has occurred in clear public view, devoid of interjection investigations by peta, police, activists, the general authorities and anyone who thinks rationally with any remote sense of empathy. The documentation detailing bizarre lies, contradicting stories, dates, and begging for funds when not a non -profit are reason for alarm. But the adamant refusal to detail the precise location of the poor animals now, we paid for, with responsible active addresses and owners, all three hundred, is madness requiring immediate demand for investigation and reporting to all animal groups worldwide. No animal protection group would overlook this: where is the humane society, peta, other rescue ranches? Who is standing up for Gods creatures? In her removed video, and currently, she claims poverty of funds made her ‘lose’ her ‘forever rescue ranch’ but at the same time was factually purchasing multimillion dollar homes. In actuality, she just moved into one, no concrete facts on her disappearing dumped animals. It is as if they never existed. Her simply non/thinking vulnerable followers are clearly unable to calculate the sinister implications of this surreal mega mockery of kind hearts. Where are those three hundred animals? This is an American historical epic farce, but her sweeping illogical generalizations, contradicting statements and blaming it all on the devil turn intelligent mainstream authorities off from getting involved. Please have a heart and demand responsible data and accountability, namely, where exactly is each animal now separated from one another, who is in charge of them and how long will they be there?

    Laughable lies such as her ‘friends’ took them contradict the animal sanctuaries of the area, and yes she could have flown them to the mainland by animal air freight. Ignore irrational ‘the devil made you ask me this’ crazy double talk and let’s find those poor animals and take care of them like God wants us to. Her current posts on bloody sacrifices are a macabre coincidence in selection of bible readings, from a book where Christ said he, not innocent animals, is the divine sacrifice. We recall her begging us for medicine money and food money while a billionaire author. Then that video claiming poverty moving in a thousand sq ft room. Doreen, please drop the act and just list the animals locations and where the donation money went as an honest godly woman, remember the verse, “I will pay back four times the amount I took” in scripture? Those are Gods creatures, every one of them. Have a heart. You will be required to. If everyone here who said ‘no one is doing anything’ called five animal protection groups, sanctuaries, authorities, DA, press, and investigated it themselves, those poor defenseless ones might just be secure in someone’s arms forever next week. Justice. It is their right, and the authorities responsibility, but animals have never gotten a fair deal have they? Doreen, give us the addresses of each animal, today. You will be required to. Thank you.


  12. Donna Davis February 5, 2018 8:15 pm

    This is the most calculated frightening abuse of the defenseless that has occurred in clear public view, devoid of interjection investigations by peta, police, activists, the general authorities and anyone who thinks rationally with any remote sense of empathy.

    The documentation detailing bizarre lies, contradicting stories, dates, and begging for funds. But the adamant refusal to detail the precise location of the poor animals now that we paid for, with responsible active addresses and owners, all three hundred, is madness. This requires an immediate demand for investigation and reporting to all animal groups worldwide.

    No animal protection group would overlook this: where is the humane society, peta, other rescue ranches? Who is standing up for Gods creatures? She claims poverty of funds made her ‘lose’ her ‘forever rescue ranch’ but at the same time was factually purchasing multimillion dollar homes. In actuality, she just moved into one, no concrete facts on her disappearing dumped animals. It is as if they never existed.


  13. Donna Davis February 5, 2018 8:20 pm

    Where are those three hundred animals? This is an American historical epic farce, but her sweeping illogical generalizations, contradicting statements and blaming it all on the devil turn intelligent mainstream authorities off from getting involved. Please have a heart and demand responsible data and accountability, namely, where exactly is each animal now separated from one another, who is in charge of them and how long will they be there?

    Laughable lies such as her ‘friends’ took them contradict the animal sanctuaries of the area, and yes she could have flown them to the mainland by animal air freight. Ignore irrational crazy double talk and let’s find those poor animals and take care of them like God wants us to.

    We recall her begging us for medicine money and food money while a billionaire author. Then that video claiming poverty moving in a thousand sq ft room. Doreen, please drop the act and just list the animals locations and where the donation money went as an honest godly woman, remember the verse, “I will pay back four times the amount I took” in scripture? Those are Gods creatures, every one of them. Have a heart. You will be required to.


  14. Donna Davis February 5, 2018 8:21 pm

    If everyone here who said ‘no one is doing anything’ called five animal protection groups, sanctuaries, authorities, DA, press, and investigated it themselves, those poor defenseless ones might just be secure in someone’s arms forever next week. Justice. It is their right, and the authorities responsibility, but animals have never gotten a fair deal have they? Doreen, give us the addresses of each animal, today. You will be required to. Thank you.


  15. Preeti Seenundun February 5, 2018 9:20 pm

    Doreen asked people to DONATE to her rescue ranch, and from what I have come to understand, it is ILLEGAL to request for donations publicly when there is no registered charity. Your article mentions that doreen said they had to work to make the money to pay for the expenses. Didn’t she mention that she was requesting donations? The people who bought her courses were assured that the course fees will entirely be going to the feeding of the animals. It is the least of things to be accountable to all these people for them to know what happened to these animals, who did they go to when the ranch was disbanded. It does not suffice to say that they went to nice people. Names and addresses of these people should be publicly be made known, if not publicly, then at least to those who donated for a cause. Where I come from, there are people who rescue countless stray dogs every single day, pay for their treatment and then also find a home for them. They also do request for donations from the public. However, they always show a receipt of vet expenses and give the name of the person who adopts the rescued animal. That’s how it’s done. The way doreen has treated the very people who open-heartedly contributed to what they thought was a noble cause, well I have no words for how low she has stooped. And this woman claims to be following the word of God. See the irony and hypocrisy.


  16. Frida Berglund February 5, 2018 9:24 pm

    What happened to all the animals? And all the fundings? Doreen needs to answer to that, and show papers to proof! She is a public figure and has used that for this purpose, so now she must answer to all the people who has helped the animals and funded this sanctuary!


  17. Therece February 6, 2018 12:59 am

    I feel so sorry for these poor animals to cross their paths with a conartist like Doreen Virtue. Those animals were promised a forever home on that ranch and people have given a LOT of money in charity, including course fees that were supposed to go to the care of the animals. Now that ranch is dissolved, the couple has moved away and by the looks of it it seems they get away with it even though it’s illegal to recieve, and ask for, donations for non registered sanctuaries in the state of Hawaii. A follow up article is very much needed and a thorough investigation of this couple. They have conned thousands of people all over the world and are still at it with a new direction: the Christian market. They must be stopped and refunds given to all who they’ve conned. Please do a follow up article and please get to the bottom of what really happened with these poor animals for starters. Thank you.


  18. Angela Moeller Deye February 6, 2018 3:46 am

    I wonder how much this newspaper was paid to print this article and to keep it running without any further investigation and digging? Big money “gurus” can afford hush money, I imagine. Where did all the charity money go? Why was the charity not registered legally? How many different explanations did we get from Doreen in her weekly videos? Does she even know what really happened to them or is it an out of sight out of mind situation? It’s a shame there’s such a lack of transparency. Does she even listen to her own guidance about how messages from God are received? THEY’RE NOT WISHY WASHY! Why would Jesus have her create a rescue ranch only to (a few months later) disband the ranch and tell her to get rid of all her animals? The truth is: she got overwhelmed; it was too much work; she had no idea what she was getting herself into; she liked the idea of it rather than the reality of it. Why not just say that?


  19. Angela Ray February 6, 2018 11:18 am

    I am stunned this publication has not penned a follow up article about what has happened here. Doreen and Michael Virtue abandoned all those poor animals they had promised a forever home to. They claim they could no longer afford to keep them but continue to make millions, as discussed. I purchased poor quality courses from this couple but I didn’t mind because I was contributing to the welfare of the animals. I’m sure there are plenty of people on the island who care about what happened to them. This couple need to be held accountable for what they have done. Where are those animals?


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