WATERVILLE — A week after responding to a costly outbreak of ringworm, the local animal shelter is now reeling from the discovery that all of its membership lists are no longer in the computer files.
The lists helped the Humane Society Waterville Area identify people in the community who support the shelter. With expenses adding up from the ringworm outbreak last week and the shelter still closed to the public as officials remove the fungal infection, humane society officials were planning to set up a membership fundraising drive this week.
But they found that membership lists were no longer on the nonprofit organization’s computers.
In a notice sent out Thursday, the humane society said the membership lists “were destroyed in a computer malfunction sometime over the last year.” There is speculation that the records may have been either accidentally or purposely deleted, according to Board of Trustees President Matthew Townsend.
“All that I know is we’ve lost our membership list and we’re working on reestablishing it,” he said. “Our computer technician might be able to tell us more on how it disappeared and tell us who had access to it and if it was malicious or accidental.”
No files or documents concerning animals at the shelter were jeopardized, according to outreach coordinator Margi Hayes. The information concerning animals at the shelter is contracted with a third party and is on its secure server.
The loss of the membership databases is just the latest problem at the Waterville humane society, which is without a full-time executive director after former director Kathleen Ross was removed at the beginning of April. Ross couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
Meantime, two shelter employees — kennel manager Pam Nichols and communication manager Margi Hayes — are splitting the executive director’s responsibilities.
Last Thursday, the ringworm outbreak forced the shelter to close, as about a dozen animals tested positive for the fungal infection. The ringworm was traced to one of two dogs that had been left at the shelter with porcupine quills in their mouths. 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.
The shelter is still closed as it continues to expunge the fungus, which has cost thousands of dollars in testing and cleanup costs, according to Nichols.
A notice posted on the shelter’s website says it’s a “difficult time for the shelter,” and “we are in serious need of donations to help us get through this situation.”
Despite the in-house turnover and financial burden caused by the fungal outbreak, Townsend said the shelter is on stable footing and is working with the Maine Federation of Humane Societies to create a plan for the future.
“Are we in a great financial position? No, but we are in a stable one,” he said. “I don’t see the doors closing anytime soon.
“When you have consistency, some of these things tend to take care of themselves,” Townsend added.
Townsend said the membership lists should have been backed up or duplicated on to a zip drive or another computer, and that once the list is reestablished, that will be a top priority. Townsend and Hayes recommend existing members and those interested in being members to contact the shelter, so it can receive newsletters and event updates.
“If they are active members and signed up recently, they should call us to make sure they are on our list,” Townsend said. “If you’re interested and haven’t signed up yet, then be sure to contact us and if you can make a donation, great, if not, then get on our mailing list to stay informed.”