Inspirational Animal Sanctuaries: Big Island Farm Sanctuary – Saving lives. Touching hearts. Changing minds.

Tell us about your sanctuary.

Founded in November 2018, we are located in Naalehu, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our motto is, “Saving lives. Touching hearts. Changing minds.”

At Big Island Farm Sanctuary, we provide a safe, loving, forever home for animals who have been orphaned by hunters, abandoned, injured, abused, or exploited. Once here, our residents are given all the love and care they need to become healthy, happy ambassadors, where they can show people how truly amazing and sentient they are.

Through weekly tours- public and private- Big Island Farm Sanctuary gives people the opportunity to meet the animals face to face and really connect with them. There is just something life changing about hugging a cow, rubbing a pig belly, playing with a goat, or cuddling a chicken! We believe that when we change peoples’ perception of animals, we plant a seed. When people are excited about their new perception, and share it with others, they plant another seed. For every seed planted, hundreds of lives are saved and the infinite cycle of saving lives, touching hearts, and changing minds continues.

How can people find you online?





What was the impetus that prompted you founding a sanctuary?

Believe it or not, it all started with a simple visit to a farm animal sanctuary with my (then) teenage daughter in 2017. There was a moment that she shared with a 3000 pound, genetically modified steer- a true gentle giant- that moment, combined with his story, made me realize that I was no better than any other living breathing being and that, not only did I know longer want to contribute to the suffering of animals, I wanted to spend the rest of my life trying to give others this same experience in the hopes of touching their hearts and changing their minds.

When my daughter turned 18 and was ready to live on her own, my husband and I packed six suitcases and moved to the Big Island of Hawaii. As soon as the plane landed, we rescued our very first animal- a pig named Scout- and Big Island Farm Sanctuary was official!

Paula and Betty

How did you find the land/space?

We originally started on a small acre of land. We had no plans to grow as fast as we did but as soon as word got around that there was a new sanctuary on the island, we began to fill up quickly. We searched the internet for land for sale and found 25 acres in Naalehu, Hawaii- complete with an ocean view- and it all just fell into place.

What about funding?

We were able to secure our land through a seller-finance, which means the seller is the “bank” and holds the land title for a mutually agreed upon amount of years before the remaining amount is due, at which point we would look into refinancing somewhere else or paying off the remainder of the loan. This is a great way fro someone who maybe doesn’t have good credit, or can’t qualify for a bank loan, to still get the property and build their credit by paying on time.

As for how we pay the bills, we decided against becoming a non-profit and instead becoming a “social purpose” business- a business started on the foundation of addressing a social mission- our mission being “Saving lives. Touching hearts. Changing minds.”  You can read more here about how and why we made this decision.

So how do we cover the costs of running a sanctuary if it’s not by seeking donations?

  • Tours– We offer small, intimate tours several days a week for a very affordable price. This is your opportunity to meet the residents of Big Island Farm Sanctuary and fall in love, all while supporting our mission.
  • Sponsor an Animal– When you sponsor an animal, you help us give them the best life possible! In return, you get a certificate of sponsorship (digital so that you can print it out as many times as you want, use it as your screensaver, or save it on your phone). You’ll also received a yearly swag-pack filled with things that only sponsors get, as well as a monthly update and picture of your sponsored animal. It’s the perfect way to help us and keep up on someone who has touched your heart.
  • caRVee– This is our newest business venture and we’re excited about it! We’ve created an economical, low-waste way for you to travel the island and truly experience it. Land at the airport, pick up your caRVee, drive anywhere on the island you want, and simply drop it back off at the airport the day you leave. Everything you need to have the ultimate camping experience is provided. All you need to bring is food, a few personal items, and your sense of adventure!
  • Howley’s Island Dogs– Coming Summer 2020! Howley’s all vegan hotdog stand will be at local markets, as well as available during

The direct links to each of these can be found on our FAQ page.

Who are the Rockstar animals on your farm? Why? Add pictures.

Tough one! Can I name all 47? ;D Every animal here has a unique and inspiring story of rescue and survival but, I would say our goat, Mary Kate, because she almost died when she was younger from an overdose of grain (She got into her sister’s bowl when we weren’t looking.). The story of everything that went wrong while trying to get her to the vet two and half hours away, in the middle of the night, all by myself, low on gas, no gas stations open, car breaking down, having to find another vet last minute when the one quit responding to phone calls, and Mary Kate still surviving, is something movies are made of! She spent four days in the hospital, wasn’t expected to make it, was initially blind, and yet today, she is thriving… and seeing!

Mary Kate and Ashley

Miggy the cow would definitely be another rockstar. She came to us early 2020 after being attacked by feral dogs. The other two cows she lived with didn’t make it. When Miggy got to us she was covered in bite marks, weak from the fight and the devastation of losing her sister and friend, and her ears were in literal shreds. We spent weeks healing her and doing all in our power to save not only her life, but her ears. Today she has recovered fully and integrated with her new herd.  She shows no signs of her horrific experience except for her little “Nemo ear.” We love celebrating what makes her unique, and showing others that it’s perfectly awesome to be different!


How do the animals get their names?

When I was the volunteer coordinator at a different sanctuary (before starting my own), I grew to love many of the people I worked with. Many of our animals are named by those people as my way of honoring them for their friendship; and it helps me feel a little closer to them even though we’re an ocean apart now. We have also had rescuers and donors name some of the animals. One “rule” we have when naming animals is that it cannot be the name of any food. The last thing we want is for people to associate an animal with food when that’s the very mindset we’re working so hard to change.

What is the toughest thing about running a sanctuary?

Not being able to save every animal in need of sanctuary. I think people have this misconception that sanctuaries’ space and resources are unlimited. They don’t understand that we simply cannot take in everyone. There are nights I literally cry about the ones I simply didn’t have the resources to help.

What do you do with the eggs from the chickens you have?

We believe that, “If it came from you, it belongs to you.” When our chickens lay eggs, we feed them back to them. Laying eggs is hard work and depletes the chicken of vital nutrients. Eating their own eggs is one way of replenishing lost nutrients.

What is on your wish list?

We don’t really have a wish list but a few things we always love to get in the mail would be airplane blankets (you know the ones they give you on your flight), animal treats like animal crackers for the pigs (yes, the ones humans eat), cow cookies (actually horse cookies but the cows dig them), and really any kind of enrichment toy for cows, goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens that you would find in a Google search. Oh, and letters and drawings from kids to our animals. Priceless. 🙂

What are three facts about any of the animals that you think people should know?

  1. Pigs are believed to be smarter than a three-year-old human and are capable of learning tricks and commands just like a dog.
  2. Cows are pregnant for nine months, just like humans, and form lifelong bonds with their babies.
  3. When a member of a cow herd dies, the herd mourns very similar to humans. They will spend time with the deceased- much like a viewing or funeral. They will lick them, rub against them, and make mooing noises similar to us crying. When the deceased is taken away, the herd members will continue to care for one another, giving extra attention to the ones feeling the biggest loss; and if the deceased was the matriarch, a new leader will ultimately step up and help the herd move forward from their loss. Maybe one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever personally witnessed.

Advice you would give to someone trying to start a sanctuary.

Think long and hard about what running a sanctuary means. Do an internship somewhere, if possible, to really get a feel for what it entails. There are no days off. At least not while you’re new and small and just starting out. There are many late nights and early mornings and nights you don’t sleep at all. Rescue calls come out of nowhere and there is no planning for them- you just drop everything and go. No vacations. Truthfully, I don’t even remember the last time my husband and I had a proper date night, so vacations are definitely out of the question. You will cry when you can’t save them all and rejoice when you save one. You will love deeper than you thought humanly possible but you will mourn in the same way when they leave this earth. It is a “sacrifice” of your freedom and ability to do what you want to do when you want to do it… and yet it is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do should you decide to do so.

Shai and Ben 2017

What are your visiting hours?

We currently offer public tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11am to 1pm and private tours on Thursdays and Fridays from 11a to 1pm. Those days/times are subject to change and a reservation is required so visit our website to plan your visit.

Why do you think sanctuaries are important?

Sanctuaries give refuge to animals in need. When structured correctly, they also educate people on the horrors of the farming industries such as meat, dairy, fur, wool, etc. They give people the opportunity to intimately and emotionally connect to animals so commonly seen as nothing more than a commodity, giving way to the opportunity to form a bond that will possibly lead to one less person eating and using animals, ultimately resulting in less loss of life.

How has your relationship to animals changed since you started a sanctuary? I

 don’t just see an animal anymore, I see an individual- each with their own unique personalities, likes, dislikes, and quirks, and each worthy and deserving of love. I feel more connected to all animals- not just the ones we commonly call pets- and I find great satisfaction in giving them a life of love and kindness.

What happens to the animals when they pass away?

We have a special place here at our sanctuary where all of our animals are laid to rest called Rainbow Hill. It’s at the highest point of our property and sits next to a heiau (pronounced hay-ow) which is an old Hawaiian temple built from rocks. It’s a very serene place, perfect for the final resting place of our beloved residents, as well as a beautiful place to sit and reflect.

What are some of the basic rules of a sanctuary?

We do not breed our animals. The only way we would support breeding would be sanctuaries who have endangered species and are working to rebuild a population. All of our males are fixed when they come in. We do, occasionally, have a baby born here but that’s only when a pregnant mother is rescued before giving birth.

We do not sell any byproducts. Eggs are given back to the chickens, lactating moms simply dry up after weaning their young, and if we had any residents who needed haircuts or shearing, we would simply throw away the remnants.

None of our residents are used for farm labor. We leave that to the humans!

What is the biggest myth about sanctuaries?

Maybe that it’s all cow hugs, belly rubs and endless naps in the pasture with your residents. Sure, that’s a part of it but the day-to-day is much less glamorous than what you see on social media.

How can sanctuaries better work with one another in the same community?

Just by being open to helping each other when needed. It’s not a competition. It’s not about who has the most land, or animals, or followers, or who’s “doing it better.”. It’s about saving lives. When we come together, great things happen! I see sanctuaries working together all the time and it’s so inspiring!

We actually have four pigs who were rescued from a backyard pig farm on the island of Oahu- Lucky, Hannah, Anchi, and Jess. Aloha Animal Sanctuary didn’t have the space to keep them (they’ll grow to be anywhere between 600-1000 pounds) and so we worked together to get them rescued and then flown over to the Big Island, where they now live their lives with us. Their rescuers have even flown over to visit them and we named the girls after the founders as our way of honoring the work they did to save these precious babies.

What animals do you take and how can people get a hold of you?

First and foremost, FARMED ANIMALS freed from industrial and backyard farming and exploitation, abuse or neglect, and ultimately destined for slaughter. This would include cows, donkeys, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens, llamas, alpacas, etc. We are not, currently, in a position to take in ducks.

Secondly, FERAL (aka wild) ANIMALS who have been recently found orphaned or injured. We actually go into great detail on our website about who we can and cannot help. We suggest people read this BEFORE contacting us via email.

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