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County considers strengthening animal cruelty ordinances

Local groomer arrested second time in a week



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners is considering updating county ordinances relating to animal control and business licenses following an incident in which a dog died while being groomed.

Board Chairman Todd Levent said Oct. 19 the case is currently under investigation, so he asked public commenters to not discuss the case itself. Many spoke about their own pets and asked the ordinance changes make it harder or impossible for people with animal cruelty records to work around animals.

The item will be moved to a work session for further discussion by the board. Two public hearings will be required before it can be enacted.

On Oct. 11, Michelle Louise Root, 41, of Gainesville, the owner of Paw’sh Paws, 530 Lake Center Parkway B2, pet grooming salon was arrested after reports of animal abuse, including deaths, surfaced.

Cumming Police Deputy Chief Aletha Barrett said Root has since closed the business.

Root was initially arrested for cruelty to animals after she allegedly killed a Portuguese water dog wheaten terrier mix, Meko, 3, she had been grooming at her store.

Then a week later on Oct. 18, she turned herself in to the Forsyth County Jail after the Cumming Police Department executed two search warrants on the business and Root’s home.

Root posted bond both times.

She now has a second felony aggravated cruelty to animals charge against her after police learned of a second report of a dog having to be euthanized in March 2016 after being in Root’s care.

According to the criminal arrest warrant, a dog in Root’s care suffered a ruptured spleen and eye trauma. The dog was later euthanized.

The Cumming Police Department has received hundreds of statements of similar abusive situations from the public since Root was initially arrested, Barrett said.

“We are still investigating and will probably have additional charges …” Barrett said. “Some of the reports go back to 2003 where she worked at another facility. We are taking statements from anyone and everyone who comes forward to help solve that case.”

One of the shop’s employees went to the Cumming Police Department after witnessing the incident Oct. 7. She said she was washing Meko when another employee took the dog to the front of the store where Root worked.

Root allegedly kicked Meko, knocking the dog into the door, took the lead around his neck and choked him to the point of unconsciousness, according to the police report.

The employee said Root then dragged Meko to the front of the store and banged him against multiple objects, including a washer. Root then put Meko back onto the table and attempted to finish grooming the dog. However, the employee said Meko was unresponsive at the time.

Shortly after the incident, Meko’s owner came to pick him up, and Root and her husband reportedly told the owner Meko “must’ve had a seizure,” according to the report. An employee questioned the owner about Meko’s disposition, but was told “to be quiet, that the dog had a seizure and that was it.”

Meko was transported to a local animal hospital where he was pronounced dead. The owner took the dog for a pathology report and autopsy, and the necropsy reportedly confirmed eye witness statements.

A few days later, another employee went to the police and gave a statement in line with the first employee’s account. She said there were no problems giving Meko a bath and the dog was compliant while being bathed and blow dried. She described the abuse in detail and said “the dog was so traumatized it evacuated its bowels.”

Both employees said this was not the first occurrence of abuse they saw from Root.

Levent requested the ordinance be named after Meko, and said it was passed along to the Legislature to possibly spur a state law, as well.

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