WATERVILLE — The Humane Society Waterville Area animal shelter on Webb Road re-opened this past weekend for the first time since Oct. 1 when it closed during an outbreak of feline panleukopenia, or distemper, a highly contagious viral disease that killed about three dozen cats and kittens.

Cats on the shelter’s adoption floor show no signs or symptoms of the virus nor have they tested positive, according to the shelter’s Facebook page, which says the Humane Society is looking for people to adopt cats.

“We appreciate your support, kind words/thoughts and patience throughout this devastating event,” the post, dated Sunday, says. “In honor of those cats we lost, let’s find great homes for the ones who have survived.”

The shelter’s executive director, Lisa Smith, did not return messages left Monday on her cell phone. Smith is out of the office until Wednesday, a shelter official said.

During the outbreak, Smith said staff worked with a veterinarian who specializes in infectious diseases to help manage and resolve the situation. A company disinfected the building, and shelter staff members took all precautions to contain the illness by wearing protective clothing during the outbreak. All cats and kittens were vaccinated for distemper and received a second round of vaccinations, according to Smith.

Michael Brown, president of the society’s board of directors, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday, but he said earlier this month that the shelter was using the situation as a learning experience to help strengthen all aspects of protocol and the way officials operate at the humane society to make it a safe place for the animals. Kelly Couture, a member of the Humane Society’s board of directors, also could not immediately be reached for comment.

Though shelter officials do not know the source of the distemper outbreak, Smith said it could have been a colony cat or a trapped cat.

The shelter has a staff of 18, 10 of whom are full time, and operates on an annual budget of more than $500,000. It gets funding from fees 26 communities pay for services, as well as from fundraisers and donations. Brown said earlier this month that the shelter operates on a tight budget, has been applying for grants and is trying to be fiscally conservative with its endowments. It also is working with outside consultants to make sure officials are using resources in the best possible manner, according to Brown.

The shelter would not survive without donations, according to officials. The Humane Society’s annual craft fair, which raises money for the shelter, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Fairfield Community Center at 61 Water St. in that town.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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