A Gainesville woman has been formally charged with animal cruelty, stemming from incidents in 2016 and 2017 that allegedly led to the death of two dogs in her care.
Michelle Louise Root, former owner of Paw’sh Paws in Cumming, was formally charged Monday, April 9, with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and is accused of kicking, choking and otherwise harming two dogs, indictment documents stated.
Root was first arrested Oct. 11, 2017, after witnesses of an Oct. 7, 2017, incident filed reports with the Cumming Police Department. The indictment alleged that during this incident, Root “did maliciously cause the death of an animal named Meko, by kicking said dog, and by choking said dog with a lead.”
According to law enforcement records, Root was arrested again on Oct. 17 for additional charges stemming from an incident in March 2016. Root is also accused of “maliciously” causing harm to another dog named Little Boy on March 2, 2016, “by rupturing said dog’s spleen,” stated the indictment.
The arrest warrant filed on Oct. 17, 2017, stated that Little Boy had to be euthanized due to the extent of his injuries.
In October 2017, former Paw'sh Paws employees told Cumming Police officers that they saw Root, “kick Meko twice, knocking Meko into the door, (take) the lead and choke Meko to the point of unconsciousness,” according to previous reporting by the Forsyth County News.
In October 2017, Deputy Chief Aletha Barrett, spokeswoman for the Cumming Police Department, said that after Root’s arrest other victims began to step forward that may have had animals allegedly injured by Root.
“We have received multiple phone calls from other potential victims that reach all the way back to the early 2000s,” she said.
Following the indictment, Meko’s owner, Eric Francis, said that he was “happy that the grand jury found there was enough evidence to bring (the case) forward.”
Francis said that even though Root could face years in jail and serious fines for her alleged crimes, he and others like him want to change how courts and governments handle similar situations.
“We have just got to give our companion animals a voice,” he said
In the wake of these incidents in October 2017, “Meko’s Law” proposed changes to the laws covering licenses for people who handle animals. By February 2018, Forsyth County commissioners voted to approve new rules for the tethering of animals, changes to the adoption rules for animals from county shelters and other changes meant to protect local pets.
Under the new ordinance, animals cannot be tethered when the dog is not in the “physical presence” of the owner or custodian, and anyone adopting from the county shelter will now have to sign paperwork certifying they have not been convicted of animal cruelty or neglect in 10 years.
At the time of her arrest, Root’s attorney, Rafe Banks, of Banks, Stubbs and McFarland, LLP, told the Forsyth County News “we deny any guilt or criminal intent.”