WATERVILLE — Embroiled in controversy over the disappearance of two dangerous dogs and the recent resignation of its executive director, the Humane Society Waterville Area said it has entered into a management partnership with the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland for temporary, day-to-day operations and protocol oversight.

In a Facebook post this week announcing the arrangement, the Waterville shelter said an immediate effect is that the Webb Road facility will be closed on Wednesdays. The rescue league, based in Westbrook, has been working with the Waterville shelter for the last six years to help find permanent homes for pets, according to the post.

“It is our goal to serve the people and pets of our contracted communities with compassion, respect and trust,” the Waterville shelter said in its post, “and we are confident (the Portland refuge league) will enable us to provide the highest level of treatment, care and shelter to the animals that depend on us.”

Mike Brown, president of the Humane Society’s board of directors, said in a brief phone interview Friday afternoon that the animal refuge league started its work at the shelter Tuesday.

“The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland is helping us establish protocols and procedures,” Brown said. “Our number one priority are the pets in our care and providing them with the highest level of treatment and care, and our team is looking forward to continuing our partnership with Animal Rescue League during this transitional time to better serve our community and pets.”

Brown could not be reached later Friday for additional comment on details of the arrangement with the animal refuge league, including any costs to maintain operations.

Lisa Smith resigned last month even as police continued to investigate the disappearance from the shelter of two dogs deemed dangerous by the courts and ordered euthanized. The missing pit bulls, Bentley and Kole, had been housed at the Webb Road shelter since August 2016 when they killed a Boston terrier and seriously injured its owner, Sharron Carey, as she walked the terrier on Lucille Avenue in Winslow.

The pit bulls’ owner, Danielle Jones, had been going to the shelter twice a week for the past year to walk the dogs while the case was on appeal in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. That court on Oct. 24 upheld the ruling that the dogs are dangerous and ordered them euthanized. Moments after that court issued its decision, Jones went to the shelter, walked the dogs, and reported to the shelter that they had slipped their leashes and run off into the woods.

Initially after the incident, Winslow police Chief Shawn O’Leary said his department would not take any more dogs deemed dangerous to the shelter and the town would consider using another shelter if changes were not made there. O’Leary, responding to news of Smith’s resignation, said he was pleased that the shelter made changes.

Meanwhile, police say they doubt Jones’ story — there have been no reported sightings of the pit bulls — and believe their disappearance was the result of a “coordinated effort.”

Contacted Friday afternoon, Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said the investigation into the disappearance of the pit bulls is ongoing and he had nothing new to report.

“The key for us, obviously, is finding those dogs,” he said. “Unfortunately, at this point we’ve been unable to do that, but we keep on trying.”

The nonprofit Waterville shelter has a staff of 18 people, 10 of whom are full-time, and operates on an annual budget of more than $500,000. The shelter receives funding from fees 26 communities pay for services, as well as from fundraisers and donations.

The shelter reported $543,876 in expenses and $413,739 in revenue in 2015, the last available year of its required form 990 for such nonprofit organizations. Smith, listed as the shelter’s only full-time employee on the nonprofit form, was paid a salary of $42,480.

Smith said in an earlier interview that she was not at the shelter the day the dogs disappeared. The shelter staff was unaware of the court’s decision when Jones came to walk the dogs that day, and she wishes they had been informed along with others who knew of the decision.

“We fully believe that we were deceived,” Smith said in the earlier interview. “It’s a tragedy all the way around. We feel we’ve let the public down. We feel we’ve let the community and law enforcement down, so we do feel bad.”

Asked if people found to be harboring the pit bulls would be charged criminally, Massey has said it would depend on the circumstances. For instance, police would ask how they got the dogs and whether they knew there was a court order for the dogs to be euthanized when they received the dogs. If they answered “yes” to the questions, police would report that to the district attorney.

As to whether Jones would be charged if she were found to have the dogs, Massey said there is a special state statute that deals with violation of court orders, that this situation is unique, and the district attorney would be involved.

Massey has said that Jones refuses to speak with police and that was making the investigation difficult.

Jones had said previously that she no longer owned The Muddy Paw, a dog grooming business in Winslow, and asked that she not be called there. However, in an unsolicited email sent earlier this month to the Morning Sentinel, Jones admitted to lying about no longer owning the business.

“(I) just thought I’d prove to you that you will publish anything that anyone says truth or not!” Jones wrote in the email.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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