ARL’s Dawn Leelaub gives animals at our Brewster shelter a chance at a better life- and is grateful for how much they’ve given her in return

ARL’s Brewster shelter has served the community of Cape Cod since 1921 providing care, housing, and an adoption center for animals of all species, including horses, livestock, and companion animals.

In 2014, ARL’s Brewster shelter found permanent homes for 723 animals thanks in part to assistant shelter manager, Dawn Leelaub, as well as the amazing volunteers and shelter staff! One word that can sum up this shelter’s success over the years is TEAMWORK. “I’m always collaborating with the same people- from animal intake, to behavioral evaluations, to daily cage cleaning, to adoption- which I really love,” explains Dawn.

brewster shelter

Dawn can often been seen giving lots of love and attention to the Brewster Shelter’s furry residents.

ARL Blog sat down with Dawn to find out more about the important work that she does at ARL’s Brewster shelter. Here’s what she had to say…

ARL Blog: You’ve been with the ARL for 25 years! Congratulations! How had your position within the organization evolved?

Dawn Leelaub: Thank you! I have had the luxury of growing up, so to speak, within the ARL. I started at the Brewster shelter when I was 19-years-old as a “kennel attendant.” Following that, I actually went back to school to become an Animal Control Officer! Later, I was promoted to supervisor of the Brewster shelter, and currently I am the assistant manager.

I work for an unbelievable organization that is constantly re-evaluating itself to become better and better. The ARL offers many types of training opportunities, so my colleagues and I are constantly evolving and learning something new in our field. Additionally, as a person, I’ve learned to listen more than I speak and to just be more aware.

ARL Blog: What made you stay with the ARL so long? I’m sure it has a little something to do with the adorable animals you spend time with every day!

DL: I have so much respect for the ARL; it has given me purpose. Someone once told me that when you look in the mirror you have to like the reflection appearing back onto you. I’m proud of what I do and am very lucky to have found it at 19!

Without sounding too cliché, I help animals and people, but they helped me as well! It’s very special to know that I have made an impact on someone’s life and then find out that they want to do the same for me in return.

ARL Blog: ARL’s Brewster shelter has been helping animals in the Cape Cod community since 1921! Is there anything that makes the Brewster shelter unique compared to the Boston and Dedham locations?

DL: The Brewster shelter is very special in its own right. First and foremost, we have the most amazing community! We are surrounded by people who really care about us and are willing to jump in and help out by donating supplies or whatever the shelter may need; it’s very humbling. I’ve lived in the area my entire life, so I definitely have my own deep connection with Brewster.

People from the community will casually drop by to say hello to our staff and the animals and see how we’re doing. On a Saturday alone, we’ll have upwards of 150 visitors! It’s amazing to see adopters who I helped 25 years ago come here with their children.

ARL Blog: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

DL: The opportunity to help and be surrounded by so many amazing animals that I can’t help but love! Recently, a dog came into our Brewster shelter with not a stitch of fur and in really bad shape; she had never been seen by a veterinarian in her life. When she first arrived, she was really shy and afraid, but within a few days she’s completely transformed!  Now she loves talking to me and always has a happy and peaceful expression on her face. You can tell that she feels good and knows that she’s being well taken care of. We’ve definitely bonded and I know we’re going to make her life better.

I get so excited when the animals I’ve helped come back to visit me with their new families. I’m so thankful that the animals have found a loving home and that I’m able to develop a relationship with their adopters. My hope is that the families will come back and adopt other animals from the ARL in the future- and most of them do!

ARL Blog: What is the most challenging part of your job?

DL: I’m always working to help to change the public’s perception about the animals that come into our shelters. There is no such thing as a “bad” dog, cat, guinea pig, etc. The fact is that many animals find their way into ARL’s shelters through no fault of their own–and we’re here to help them. It’s important for me to help the community understand what the ARL does and why we’re here.

ARL Blog: What’s your favorite “happy tail” moment at the shelter?

DL: Perhaps one of my favorite memories is the adoption of pot-bellied pig, Albert Swinestein. He was an unbelievable character and we really bonded. In fact, he was so special that his adopters drove all the way up from West Virginia during a blizzard to pick him up! The family recently sent an update letting me know that his new best friend is their pet bulldog.

To learn more about ARL’s Brewster shelter, visit