CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- One of the largest wolf sanctuaries in the country is right here on the First Coast.
Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary is located on 5-acres of property, tucked behind a rural dirt road in Green Cove Springs.
The faith based wolf rescue and sanctuary isn't open to the public, but our Lisa Robbins got an exclusive tour of the property.
The land is home to 60 wolves and wolf dogs, most of which have been neglected or abused.
"A lot of them are terrified when they get here. They've experienced the worst of humans."
John Knight and his wife developed the sanctuary 10 years ago after their two wolf pups multiplied into several.
"We had Sampson and Spirit and planned to get the property and just have those two," he said.
Soon after, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other agencies started asking them if they could take in more animals.
"Those two, turned into 60," he said.
There's 24 enclosures averaging 7,500 square feet. Each enclosure is equipped with pools for the animals to use and cool off. Knights said the animals are free to behave how they're intended to.
Whether a wolf or wolf dog, he said the behavior of each animal can vary greatly.
"People want a wolf that behaves like a dog. That's not going to happen," he said.
Knight maintains there's a high demand for the animals from people who have no experience dealing with them.
"When they come here, we extend to them the grace to be who and what they are and slowly but surely, they start coming back to life."
The animals are extremely intelligent and full of life, he said.
" Some are shy. They experience rejection, fears, hurt feelings, apprehensions."
The sanctuary isn't open to the public because Knight strongly believes the animals shouldn't be exhibited. The Knight's don't make a profit from their work but somehow, they always manage to make ends meet.
"I'm surprised sometimes we can make it another day because it pretty much all day."
He said they rely on donations from the public. Between food, veterinary bills, and maintenance, monthly expenses can top out at $5,000. He hasn't taken a paycheck in 10 years.
Knight has dreams to move to a bigger property and continue his faith-based goal of saving as many wolves and wolf-dogs as possible.
In the past decade, they've saved more than 100 animals.
"They're loved no matter what they do," he said.