An outbreak of ringworm discovered on one of the dogs left recently at the Humane Society Waterville Area with porcupine quills in their mouths has spread the contagious fungal infection to other animals at the shelter.
That’s caused the shelter to close until it can be cleaned.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that feeds on material on the outer layer of skin and appears in dime-sized circles on human or animal skin. It was found earlier this week after kennel manager Pam Nichols suspected it on Buddy, a white terrier that was left overnight at the shelter last week along with a Great Dane named Magnum. The dogs were left by their owner with mouths full of porcupine quills and a note saying the owner couldn’t afford to care for them.
Two dogs and 10 cats at the shelter tested positive for ringworm as of Thursday afternoon, Nichols said.
“When we first suspected it we quarantined the dog,” Nichols said Thursday. “But when we found it on the other end, we took more precautions and are completely scrubbing and bleaching the place.”
While staff work to eradicate the infection, the 110 cats and 18 dogs at the Waterville shelter are going to neighboring shelters and humane societies, including the Somerset Humane Society and the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, Nichols said.
Nichols said she hopes the shelter can open back up Monday, but it needs dog bedding donations, as every piece of bedding had to be thrown out. Tests for each of the animals also run anywhere from $65 to $85 each, Nichols said.
The ringworm outbreak comes at a time when the Waterville humane society is without an executive director. Earlier this month the Board of Directors decided not to renew the contract of interim director Kathleen Ross. Townsend said that the board and Ross, who was previously a board member, had disagreements about her responsibilities as executive director.
“There were reasons on both ends that decided to not formalize a contract,” Townsend said. “One of the biggest things as an executive director is the need to make a strong showing in the community and that wasn’t there. That’s wasn’t her strength, and it’s not her fault because that wasn’t her goal originally to be executive director, but it’s part of the job.”
Ross said Thursday that she wanted to stay with the shelter, but would not comment further.
Two full-time employees of the humane society, Nichols and Margi Hayes, are splitting the responsibilities of the executive director, which include kennel and business operations, animal safety and adoptions and community outreach, according to Board of Directors President Matthew Townsend.
“The things Pam doesn’t like to do are the things that I like to do,” Hayes said. “Turns out we can work together fairly well.”
Counting Nichols and Hayes, there have been four executive directors at the Waterville humane society since June, when Andrea Pasco was fired after she and the board differed on how the shelter should move forward.
Townsend attributes the turnover to the broad range of responsibilities the position requires, as well as the pay — about $40,000 annually — which is low compared to similarly sized shelters. Greater Androscoggin Humane Society Executive Director Steve Dostie said the criteria for salary can depend on the size of the shelter, its location and the experience of the employee.
“Of course, every shelter is different, but the position can range from $35,000 to $40,000 up to $75,000 or $80,000,” he said.
Townsend said despite the turnover at the administration level, the mission of the shelter is still strong, as euthanasias are down and adoptions are up, according to Townsend.
“The main goals are being met,” he said. “It’s the other stuff that is difficult. We need to continue to build our volunteer base and take the load off our staffing. When you do have turnover, it’s difficult to maintain that volunteer base.”
Townsend said the shelter’s donations are appreciated yet sporadic, which creates a difficult situation when trying to hire a full-time director.
“The donation requests that come in are nice, but it’s nothing you can plan on,” he said. “The staffing one month will be even and the next month we may be thousands of dollars behind.”