The sanctuary was started by an individual named Joanne Lefson, a photo journalist from South Africa. She was saddened to see the donkeys in implorable conditions. Though their plight was lamented by animal lovers, nothing had been done to improve their conditions. Joanne along with her local friend Stanny Wangchuk founded the Sanctuary to improve the living conditions of the donkeys in Leh. Joanne wrote a book, 'Around the world: My travels with Oscar', documenting travel experiences with her dog Oscar.