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Public speaks out on animal control ordinance



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Commission held the first of two public hearings Dec. 7 on proposed changes to the county’s animal control ordinance.

The changes come in response to the arrest of Michelle Louise Root, 41, of Gainesville, who owns Paw’sh Paws pet salon off Lake Center Parkway.

Root was arrested Oct. 11 after reports of animal abuse, including deaths.

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.

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.

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.

Now, the county wants to update its animal control ordinance, including changing the portion dealing with tethering and prohibiting such restraints when the owner or adult custodian is not in view of the animal.

A second public hearing will be held Jan. 4, 2018. Potential changes to the ordinance include specific time frames for tethering an animal or requiring a person to be present with a tethered animal and what type of tether is allowed.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard recommended the work permits section also be revised to include background checks on people employed in businesses that handle animals.

In total, $40 will be for the background check and $25 for the license.

No permits would be issued to people with felony animal cruelty convictions.

“Forsyth County has an ordinance that prohibits cruelty to animals right now,” Jarrard said. “One of the concerns the board had was to make sure our court system had sufficient teeth that if someone was actually convicted of animal cruelty, they had the ability to disqualify that individual from having or possessing an animal.”

Animal adoption was another section Jarrard referenced at the meeting. He recommended additional requirements for individuals applying to adopt animals from the county, including a certification by any applicant wishing to adopt that they do not have any felony convictions of animal cruelty in any jurisdiction.

So far, Jarrard said the county has heard from the public including modifications to the portion regarding tethering.

Additionally, the county received a letter from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council President and CEO Mike Bober.

“It raises a variety of issues,” Jarrard said. “Primarily, they do not believe the background checks will accomplish the objective of making sure handlers are trained. This will add an undue delay in allowing those individuals to commence work. The fee is excessive and they ask the board consider more common sense solutions.”

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