Person of the week: Leon Sylvester

Shelton’s Animal Shelter has been receiving a bad rap and reputation for being “fast-kill” since the previous animal control supervisor of 20 plus years, Sheryl Taylor, has left the position. But her replacement, Leon Sylvester, wants to reassure the city that his main priority is the well-being of the animals taken in and the safety of the people.

“A lot of people go on Facebook and spread negative messages about the shelter and like to assume that since Sheryl is gone that we are now a bad place,” said Sylvester. “I’m not sure where this information comes from, but we have dogs that have been with us since the old shelter going on five years. We don’t put down any dog unless it has attacked somebody or if we have no other option.

The new $1.5-million shelter at 11 Brewster Lane has been open since the beginning of 2015 and is a complete upgrade from the old shelter. With more room for dogs and just a larger space in general, Sylvester said the move was in the best interest of the animals they are trying to protect.

“I understand that the people who say these things about our shelter aren’t bad, they’re just passionate,” said Sylvester. “But at the same time my staff and I all share that same passion for animals and would never want to do anything to harm them. It’s our job not to. ”

Sylvester said his staff spends hours every day evaluating whether or not someone is fit to adopt a dog from the shelter, as well as making calls trying to find homes for dogs to try and prevent euthanizations, which he referred to as the last resort. He said each dog that is adopted out goes through a thorough process to determine whether or not it is a good fit for the home.

Plans to collaborate with other towns in the future are a part of Sylvester’s hopes to decrease the number of animals that don’t get adopted and are put down.

Prior to working in the animal shelter, Sylvester was working in corporate America and said he decided to make the transition when the opportunity presented itself to manage the budget of a shelter in need while catering to animals without homes. He said he felt like he was perfect for the job because growing up in Shelton he had always envisioned being able to give back in some way or another.

“I didn’t want someone to take the position who was going to solely manage the budget based off of the numbers,” said Sylvester. “I knew I would be good at handling the business side of running a shelter and I cared so much about the animals that it just worked. There’s nothing like the feeling of meeting the animals for the first time.”

Sylvester said his job gets especially tough because of the hard decisions he has to make daily. He said he currently doesn’t have a dog, but gets attached to some of the ones that come into the shelter, and one of the most rewarding parts of his job is being able to help animals find homes and be able to live happily.

“It’s kind of in my DNA to protect animals,” said Sylvester.

His passion for animals is sometimes overlooked by people who call in the shelter, but Sylvester said regardless the animals are his main priority.

“We try to avoid accepting ‘drop-offs’ but if a person has tried contacting family members and all other options then we usually don’t turn them away,” said Sylvester. “When people call us up and ask about our policies for dropping animals off, I have to tell them it’s not all about the policies, we are discussing living things.”

“We clean them, feed them, and have local groomers who volunteer as well,” said Sylvester. “People love to think we are being coldhearted or mean when we turn down an animal, but we have to consider the ones we already have. At the end of the day we have to make the tough decisions in order to keep the best interest of the animals at heart.”

Sylvester said although it can get sad at the shelter, overall it’s a lot of fun to work there.

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