The staff at a Waterville animal shelter where two pit bulls escaped last week while on a walk with their owner agreed the animals were dangerous and should be euthanized as a judge ordered, the shelter’s departing executive director said Tuesday.

Lisa Smith, who resigned last week from the Humane Society of Waterville Area, described Bentley and Kole as “very stressed, highly strung and reactive” during their time at the shelter. The dogs barked and jumped at staff walking by their fenced-in areas, she said.

[High court refuses to spare lives of Winslow pit bulls]

The dogs disappeared on Oct. 24, shortly after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a kill order imposed last year by a district court judge. The dogs’ owner, Danielle Jones, had appealed the order.

On Aug. 31, 2016, the dogs escaped their fenced-in yard in Winslow, killing a smaller dog and attacking its owner, according to court documents.

[Judge agrees to deal that allows pardoned husky to live]

The dogs came to the Waterville facility after the attack and remained there until last week, when Jones took them for a walk. She was allowed to walk the dogs only on the shelter’s 7-acre property on Webb Road.

“They exuded anxiety based on what was happening around them,” Smith said of why Jones was allowed contact with the dogs. “We wanted to provide them with some normalcy.”

The dogs also were not eating, she said.

“They were losing weight and were very stressed. They were deteriorating in an institutional-type setting. Only certain staff were able to interact with them.”

The dogs “adjusted after a few months but were never allowed to be off shelter property. The owner and the staff knew that,” Smith, who was not working the day they disappeared, said.

Jones took the dogs off the property that day, shortly after the state supreme court announced its decision, according to Smith and news reports. Jones returned a short time later.

“She was able to come in and, I have no other word for it, but deceive our staff and leave with the dogs,” Smith said. “She knew the rules. She said the dogs ran off into the woods and the staff believed her.”

Since the dogs disappeared, Jones has not spoken to the media.

Smith and staff at the shelter learned of the high court’s ruling only later in the day, after notifying police that the dogs were missing.

“Of course, it sounds extremely suspicious.” Smith said. “For high-profile dogs like this, for no one to have seen them, is rather suspicious.”

If Jones allowed the dogs to escape or turned them over to someone else, she could be charged with contempt of court.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney declined to comment Tuesday on possible charges against Jones.

Although Smith submitted her resignation from the animal shelter, she and the board agreed she would remain indefinitely until new leadership is found, she said. She has led the shelter for three years and said she plans to meet with the board later this week to discuss a smooth transition.

“I live in Falmouth, and this business can be emotionally charged,” she said of her decision to resign. “It takes a lot out of you. If one year equals seven in dog years, one year at a shelter is at least seven years, if not 10.”

This is not the first widely publicized case in which Smith has been involved. She worked behind the scenes to search for a temporary home for Dakota, the husky condemned to death but pardoned by Gov. Paul LePage. As the appeal was pending, Maloney and the dog owner’s attorney struck a deal that allowed Dakota to live at a veterinarian’s office with a boarding facility and undergo training with a certified behavior expert until she is deemed adoptable.

Dakota also had killed a small dog and attacked another.

Smith said Tuesday that she had no information about Dakota, including whether the husky had been adopted.

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