SFWS’s history begins with the story of Mystery, one of the many wolves who had 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. In the summer of 2002, Mystery escaped from NAWA immediately upon arriving, and spent a week running free in the woods before being recaptured. In the meantime she had been caught in a leg trap and shot.
Amazingly, Mystery survived, but NAWA refused to take her back or pay her vet bills, so the veterinarian who treated her was stuck with her. Our founder, Jean LeFevre, learned about Mystery, fell in love, and knew she needed a home where she would be safe and well cared for. Jean was encouraged to apply for the necessary licenses to open a sanctuary, and 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 animals 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.
Jean LeFevre has had a lifelong compassionate interest in both humanitarian and animal welfare issues. Jean has lived in Europe, India, Tanzania, and now Texas, and has 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.
In March 1982, Jean and her late husband of 62 years, John LeFevre, moved to Montgomery, Texas. When asked what she is most proud of in her life, she responds, “My heart and my main pride is of my three wonderful sons, my beautiful daughters-in-law, my eleven incredible grandchildren plus eleven godchildren, and of course my dear friends, all of whom have their own stories!”