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Ringworm outbreak forces Brunswick animal shelter to close

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Ringworm outbreak forces Brunswick animal shelter to close

BRUNSWICK — The Coastal Humane Society will remain closed for at least the next four weeks while staff treat an outbreak of ringworm in a group of dogs recently rescued from an Alabama shelter.

The society's facilities are under quarantine and will not be placing animals for adoption or accepting new intakes until it has completely treated the fungal infection, Interim Director Mary Fifield said Tuesday. 

Coastal Humane announced a week ago that it had closed the shelter, at the recommendation of the Maine state Animal Welfare Program. 

The Jack Russel terrier-mix puppies, rescued from a kill shelter, arrived in Brunswick on July 18, but did not display symptoms until July 25, Fifield said.

Ringworm travels through spores, so the shelter has to be cautious about accidental transmission. But the infection was discovered before the dogs were exposed to the general population, according to Fifield.

So far, none of the shelter's other 220 animals have shown any signs of infection, but staff are identifying and isolating at-risk animals and pursuing a shelter-wide preventative treatment program, she said.

The closure comes just as staff and volunteers are getting ready for the final push in a nationwide adoption challenge sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Shelters are competing for a grand prize of $100,000.

The shelter is the only organization in New England to participate in the challenge, and is aiming to find homes for at least 822 animals by Aug. 31, double the amount it put out for adoption last summer. 

Through special events and reduced adoption fees, Coastal Humane managed to find homes for 352 animals in June, putting it in first place in its division and sixth place nationwide.

Until its doors were closed on Aug. 8, 616 dogs and cats had been adopted and staff were optimistic that its July numbers would put them in a strong position against other shelters.

Now, it looks like Coastal Humane is out of the running – even if test results show the infection has been isolated and treated, it is unlikely that it will be able to reopen its doors before the Aug. 31 deadline. 

"It's so sad that we've been stopped in our tracks," Fifield said.

Despite the timing, news of the outbreak has demonstrated the community support Coastal Humane enjoys, Fifield said.

"To a person, every adopter, every volunteer, every foster home, every animal control officer, everybody has just been tremendously supportive of us and asking daily of us how they can help," she said.

That support will be crucial as the shelter faces the expensive task of decontaminating and cleaning its facilities.

Fifield said Coastal Humane Society hopes to reopen sometime in the first half of September. 

Although the shelter does not believe any animals adopted before the quarantine went into effect are infected, it has set up an information hot-line, 725-5051 ext. 15, to field questions and concerns. 

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.