Eight weeks after an outbreak of ringworm closed the Waterville animal shelter, a Shih Tzu walked out of the shelter doors with its new owner as the first pet adopted since the shutdown.

Shelter staff say it’s hard to estimate exactly how many animals could have been adopted while it was closed because of a ringworm outbreak, but estimate about 10 cats and dogs a week would have found new homes.

Since then, Humane Society staff have treated the animals, painted, bleached the entire building and are now open and again matching cats and dogs with new owners.

Operations manager Pam Nichols said the new owner of the Shih Tzu, named Gizmo, had been coming by regularly during the shutdown, but was unable to take the dog home until Tuesday.

“We told her ‘You can have him now, the shelter is open,” said Nichols.

She said some of the shelter staff gathered by the door in the emotional moment while the owner and Gizmo were leaving.

“He (Gizmo) took one look back, and he was like ‘See ya’ and walked on out,” Nichols said.

Margi Hayes, outreach coordinator for Humane Society Waterville Area, said that one of the hardest things about the shutdown was that it left the 128 animals isolated from regular human contact. She is excited to see prospective adopters mingling with animals.

“That was one of the hardest things,” Hayes said. “There was no one there to talk to them. The cleaners would talk to them when they were there but they weren’t there all the time.”

The shelter closed in April after two dogs, Buddy and Magnum, were abandoned during the night at the shelter. Their mouths were full of porcupine quills and, as it turned out, ringworm. Ringworm is a fungal infection that feeds on material on the dog’s outer layer of skin and appears in dime-sized circles on human and animal skin. While the infection isn’t fatal, it spreads easily and can be transferred to humans.

Buddy, a white terrier, was first suspected to have ringworm, and the Humane Society imposed a quarantine. Once they confirmed that Buddy was infected, the shelter was closed. At first, officials said they hoped the center would reopen quickly, but then decided to painstakingly disinfect the entire property.

With the reopening, Buddy is now ready for adoption, Nichols said. Magnum was adopted just before the quarantined.

Along with the toll on the number of animals that could be adopted, Nichols estimated that the closing cost at least $20,000, with the cost of renovating the cat rooms alone coming to about $5,000. However, she said the bills were offset by an outpouring of monetary donations.

“The response was unbelievable,” she said.

The staff spent the last two months cleaning and sanitizing the building, repairing floors, cleaning ventilation ducts, remodeling and repainting.

Hayes said the shelter staff are thankful for the members from the 28 towns and cities the huane society serves who came out to support the shelter during the ordeal.

The job of sanitizing all surfaces in the shelter to make sure all the ringworm spores were eradicated involved a painstaking and thorough process.

“We went through gallons of bleach. Gallons and gallons and gallons,” she said.

However, in some rooms like the cat rooms, cat furniture had to be thrown out and replaced because it had scratches on it in which spores could hide, so they could not be cleaned like a smooth surface.

Maine Academy of Natural Sciences students Isla and Terra Brazier painted a mural on one of the refurbished walls. Laurel Sue McLeod and her family took three wooden chairs and repainted them into unique furniture for the cats to climb on.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

 


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