Our History

Our Story

It all began with a wolf named Mystery. Mystery was one of many animals that lived at the North American Wolf Association (NAWA) – a “sanctuary” in Conroe, Texas where animals were kept in substandard conditions, malnourished, and denied essential vaccinations. Mystery escaped from NAWA in the summer of 2002, immediately upon arriving, and spent a week running free in the woods before being shot and captured in a leg trap.

Amazingly, Mystery survived, but NAWA refused to take her back or pay for her medical needs… Luckily, a local veterinarian took Mystery in and nurtured her wounds, but didn’t know where to go from there…

Our founder, Jean LeFevre, learned about Mystery and went to meet her. She saw before her a sad, scared animal in need of a home, and decided that she would do whatever it took to save her. Jean was encouraged to apply for the necessary licenses to open a sanctuary, and the Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary was born, opening on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, October 4, 2002 — hence our name.

(Mystery was the heart and soul of SFWS, and remained with us for 14 years, passing away just after her 18th birthday.)


After nearly half of its animals had died from distemper because they were never vaccinated, NAWA was finally shut down in early 2003, and its remaining canines needed new homes. SFWS participated in the national rescue efforts, and took on several more of the NAWA animals: Timbre, Duchess, Yukon, Wacipi, and Spirit.

SFWS’s creation would not have been possible without the tireless contributions of time, money, and love from numerous volunteers, friends, and well-wishers, as well as a generous legacy from one of Jean’s friends, and to all of these individuals we are eternally grateful. We also thank the many individuals and rescue organizations around the country who pitched in to save and rehome the NAWA animals.

Since its inception, SFWS has grown in size and scope, adding several new enclosures and a number of new residents, constructing additional facilities, and branching into a focus on education and outreach. See the page on our future for information on our goals and needs going forward.

Our Founder


Jean LeFevre had a lifelong, compassionate interest in both humanitarian and animal welfare issues. Jean lived in Europe, India, Tanzania, and now Texas, and traveled to many other points of the globe in the course of a very eventful life. Jean was the first woman in Madras, India granted a “License to Operate Flying Machines,” enrolled the first Girl Guides on the slopes of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 1950, and was awarded the Long Service medal and Certificate of Merit as a result of her work with the Red Cross.

With a small legacy from her friend Katherine (“Kit”) Wilson, Jean helped to found The Kit Wilson Trust for Animal Welfare in England to be used for the benefit of animals and to promote the spaying and neutering of pets. Since its beginning over 30 years ago, the trust has grown to become one of the most respected animal welfare societies in the UK.

Jean Lefevre passed away peacefully in her home in July 2020.  She will be greatly missed by all of us who were deeply touched by her compassion and love for all sentient beings.