Michael Aufhauser and Irene Florence were searching for a place to
house Michael’s horses and for animal shelters to keep rescued animals.
When they started out, there were only 25 animals. Their friendship with
a bank manager helped them purchase the beautiful estate above Lake
Wallersee by the town of Henndorf. Building attractive stables and
estate premises made plenty of people curious and visitors already
showed up to view the estate under construction.
Gut Aiderbichl attracted an above-average level of interest for a
regional property. Media interest was high. Animal rights campaigners
made contact and in 2001 suggested holding an ecumenical religious
service for animals. At that time, animals were in dire need, cattle
especially. Millions were senselessly "culled" and the report on the
religious service focused the spotlight on how and why these animals
were treated that way.
Gut Aiderbichl emerged as a place to care for animals in a way that’s
true to their nature, but it also became a popular place for everyone
who wanted to help animals in need, but without knowing where they were
to provide shelter for rescued animals. Very quickly, the existing
stables had to be expanded. Irene Florence was still able to follow this
development, though she sadly died in 2002.
Without his partner, Michael Aufhauser now had to come up with a
concept to make an estate of this dimension economically viable over the
He established a GmbH with administrative offices and a non-profit
trust found (foundation) with a strong team to lead Gut Aiderbichl into
the future. Dieter Ehrengruber and Friederike Grünthal took over as
The number of rescued animals at Gut Aiderbichl grew dramatically and the first external properties were established.
Michael Aufhauser’s keenest interest is to see that large animals
such as horses and cattle, yet also pigs, goats and sheep are not left
in good faith in shelters where maintenance and the cause of the
sanctuary is different to Gut Aiderbichl. Michael Aufhauser’s approach
was heavily influenced by Johanna Wothke, founder of "Pro Animale" (Pro
Animals), and they have cooperated for many years. Johanna Wothke
promises that all the animals she rescues will no longer live in fear
and stress. That’s also an important principle for keeping animals at
If horses and other large animals are to live at Gut Aiderbichl until
the end of their natural lives, this involves huge resources for their
welfare and maintenance. They are meant to feel at home – just like
house pets with private owners who offer them ideal living conditions.
All this requires plenty of support and is only possible with
exceptional and brilliant employees who have outstanding training.
In 2006, Bernd Funda, Chairman of the Board of the Dr. Hatto Egerer – Stiftung
in Deggendorf, turned to Michael Aufhauser. Together with his wife, he
had long since admired the work of Gut Aiderbichl. When Dr. Hatto Egerer
died, he left a legacy – 12 of his own horses living at his estate in
Eichberg near Deggendorf. The board of the foundation determined that
the budget offered insufficient liquid funds to keep these 12 horses at
the estate until the end of their natural lives. The Dr. Hatto Egerer – Stiftung
consequently leased the estate and horses to Gut Aiderbichl over the
longer term. That’s how another place for humans and animals to come
together was created in Bavaria and with the same philosophy – Gut
Aiderbichl Bayern was born! Gut Aiderbichl substantially expanded the
estate and more generous expansion is planned in future.
The Köglerhof property in Carinthia and Brandstätter estate in
Kilb/Lower Austria are now also part of the Gut Aiderbichl non-profit
trust fund. In total, Gut Aiderbichl has 25 sanctuaries in Austria and
Germany, Switzerland and France giving the best of care to more than
5.600 saved animals. Both estates in Henndorf and Bavaria make huge
efforts to generate the resources needed for keeping all the animals –
visitors can meet the animals, they can enjoy light snacks in our
restaurants or purchase gifts and annual membership tickets or animals
Our estates not open to visitors are maintained by donations and
grants. That means on top of the responsibility towards our many
animals, there’s a huge effort to ensure cost-effective operations. Gut
Aiderbichl is a success, but it’s still not making a profit. No state
funds are available to support the cause.
And this cause forms Michael Aufhauser’s life’s work. On the one
hand, this is all about preserving and developing what’s here, and on
the other hand it’s a case of supporting young people who will manage
and take care of Gut Aiderbichl by embracing the philosophy and ensuring
it continues to be a success for years to come.
Michael’s most important message remains to communicate to everyone:
"Animals are not objects, but empathetic fellow creatures. They are
capable of feeling pain – just as we are." Michael Aufhauser believes it
is irresponsible to force them to suffer the dreadful living conditions
of mass breeding and animal transports over vast distances in stifling
heat or freezing cold, in overloaded trucks, relentlessly for days and
nights and often without food or drink, and finally only to end up at
Michael Aufhauser lives in Salzburg. Of course, he is surrounded by
animals. Every day, his time is taken up with meeting the needs of this
ambitious project. He gives his time purely on a voluntary basis for Gut
Aiderbichl and does not receive any profits – neither from book, film
or other royalties. Everything that he does is exclusively for the
benefit of the Gut Aiderbichl project.