In these days of well-organised, scandalous horse-meat that find their way to our tables in Europe, it was encouraging to visit a haven for traumatised animals at Aiderbichl (Henndorf), which lies 19 km away from Salzburg. Some 700 rescued animals live in this paradise and most of the animals you meet are indeed happy. Over 2000 rescued animals live in 20 homesteads under the protection of Aiderbichl. When you come to think of it that the animals in this spacious farm have been the past threatened, beaten, kicked and mishandled by humans, you’d this is a home of elderly animals. It is to some extent, but there’s inclusion of younger animals too.
Aiderbichl has become a symbol of humanity, mercy, compassion and a sanctuary par excellence, and is open for families with children, disabled people and all and sundry, if you have a heart for animals. There are also chimpanzees that were saved from laboratories that wanted to carry out experiments on them. The sanctuary Aiderbichl exists since in a decade and is open throughout the year, and Michael Aufhauser is the founder. You see clean pigs oinking playfully and lovely cats in the lawns, reindeers, ponies, an entire living room for cats, donkeys, horses, goats. The hares were also doing well.
You approach the room where two big, ferocious-looking dogs are roaming about restlessly, wagging their tails in a house with baroque-designed furniture. The dogs are mastiffs and jump at you, barking and snarling, but there’s a massive door with a window separating you and them. The snarls evoke visions of the Hounds of Baskerville in your head. The dogs were traumatised by their owner and barked and snarled at everyone.
Donkeys are supposed to be obstinate, but when you go to the Donkey House, you find them aggressive. It’s like visiting a psychiatric ward. As soon as they saw new people they’d start praying aloud and could be relieved only when the carers came and talked with them and patted them.
Each animal had a sad story to tell.
Nevertheless, it was an extraordinary experience and one of the most beautiful places in Austria. It reminded me of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten, a fairytale that little German, Austrian and Swiss children read, with the exception that the animals will live in Aiderbichl contented and happy for the rest of their lives. It is Europe’s largest sanctuary and a reality.