Animal Care

Lelesch hopes to bring Abilene’s animal shelter into new era

Though Justin Lelesch has been Abilene’s Animal Services director since the end of April, his roughly five-year tenure at the city’s animal shelter makes him a “known quantity,” City Manager Robert Hanna said.

That’s important, as Hanna and others hope his tenure will curb what has been a recent history of rapidly-rotating leadership at the shelter, build better community relations and open the door to an improved facility, partly funded by private dollars. 

Justin Lelesch, the new animal services director, inside a visitation room at the Animal Shelter Tuesday.

Counting interim director Michael Bricker, who came to the shelter through an agreement with animal group Best Friends, Abilene’s facility has had three directors in relatively quick succession.

Mirenda Walden was put on administrative leave in November 2018, while the director before Bricker, Tammy Roberts, resigned in March 2020 after being on the job for less than a year.

Lelesch, who stepped into Bricker’s shoes in late April, said his work is a chance to be able to “speak for the voiceless” and to help save the lives of animals in “bad situations, or in a situation that’s not working anymore.”

Hanna said Lelesch had “earned his stripes.”

“(He) has come through the organization and has touched a lot of different functions within Animal Services as an actual doer,” Hanna said. “So he probably approaches things from a very unique perspective, and he has really grown significantly in the past couple of years, especially under the mentorship of Best Friends. I think he’s really earned the opportunity.”