RESCUE—To rescue non-releasable, captive-bred, displaced, and unwanted wild canids, especially as a direct result of the exotic pet trade.
SANCTUARY—To provide each rescue with permanent, safe sanctuary and lifelong care addressing physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness through species-specific nutrition, medical support, enrichment, and animal companionship, when applicable.
EDUCATION—To educate the public about the plight of our rescued wild canids while providing species-specific information, focusing especially on wolfdogs, how to tell the difference between a wolf, a wolfdog, and a domestic dog, and about the ethical care and treatment of domestic and wild animals alike.
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary operates with an “Animals Come First” attitude.
Wild Spirit teaches the public about the humane treatment of wild animals, about the relationships between people and other life through respectful, compassionate co-existence, and about humanity’s important role as having the choice to be a part of the change needed to see ecosystems heal and thrive.
Because wolves, wolfdogs, and other wild canids are less successful living in domestic homes, people who purchase or breed these animals often find themselves needing to rehome them. Unfortunately, for some, life turns into a locked cage or limited existence on a chain outside; they are often isolated, abused, or neglected. Furthermore, for the wolves and wolfdogs who are unable to find sanctuary, death by euthanasia or shooting is common. In fact, wolfdogs are sentenced to death when discovered as pets in states where it is illegal to own one.
Our rescues are not adoptable. They do not legally qualify for rehabilitation or release into the wild either, as they are too acclimated to people and reliant for resources such as food. Care is customized to each animal’s needs, desires, personality, and health. We understand that some animals will never want human attention, and we respect that wish by ensuring socialization is NEVER forced.
Finally, Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary does not breed, sell, or exploit our rescues. All educational programs are offered on-site and are hands-off to reduce stress on the animals.
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary was founded in 1991, originally as The Candy Kitchen Wolf and Wolfdog Rescue Ranch, by the late Jacque Evans, a local artist who used the profits from the sales of her paintings to support the rescued wolves and wolfdogs. News of Jacque’s compassionate devotion to the rescues spread, leading the ranch to expand and to the partnership with Barbara Berge, credited as the co-founder, in 1993.
Barbara Berge was rescuing wolfdogs in Albuquerque, New Mexico when Jacque met her in June of 1992. Over the course of 10 years, Jacque and Barbara collaborated to transform the young rescue into a fully operational non-profit organization regulated by the USDA.
In October of 2003, Leyton J. Cougar, Education Director, was promoted to the position of Executive Director, and thus the transformation of the ranch into Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary began. With Leyton’s vision, charisma, and dedication, Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary evolved into an internationally renowned sanctuary, which currently cares for coyotes, New Guinea singing dogs, red foxes, and Australian dingoes in addition to the wolves and wolfdogs.
In the 2000’s, Leyton frequently traveled throughout the United States with Raven, an educational ambassador wolf. Raven helped Leyton teach the public about wolves, wolfdogs as a truly unique species, the importance of rescue, sanctuary, and education, and the effects of taking on an animal without the proper understanding and preparation beforehand, which results often in the animal requiring relocation such as to a facility like Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Leyton operated and insisted on vocalizing anti-ownership of wolfdogs and wild canid species, including foxes, coyotes, New Guinea singing dogs, and dingoes, which for the average person is sound advice.
In November of 2018, Leyton adopted the new title of Director of Development while Crystal Castellanos, Assistant Director and team member since 2011, was voted in to be the Director of Operations. Both worked diligently as leaders of the sanctuary until the summer of 2020. At that time, Leyton became a contracted employee focused on fundraising for Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, which provided him ample time to focus on his personal business and Wolf Daddy brand. Crystal Castellanos, on the other hand, decided to make a huge move to Hawaii after spending her 20’s at the sanctuary. Driven by compassion, respect, and love for the rescues, Crystal was an exceptional caregiver whose passion was infectious. All chapters must conclude, however, and Crystal decided to pursue new growth and goals after having learned a great deal at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.
In June of 2020, Brittany McDonald, Executive Director, traveled across the country to accept her new role and to build upon the foundation set by Jacque, Leyton, and Crystal before her. Brittany arrives with a great deal of wildlife experience having worked at other sanctuaries as well as a zoo. Fresh with ideas and new perspective, Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary will undoubtedly transform under Brittany’s direction.
You can read more about Brittany’s experience in this article.