The jury trial of a former dog groomer accused of animal cruelty began Monday in the Superior Criminal Court of Forsyth County.
In April, Michelle Louise Root, 44, a Gainesville resident and former owner of Paw’sh Paws in Cumming, was formally charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, accused by authorities of kicking, choking and otherwise harming two dogs in 2016 and 2017.
Through the afternoon Monday, assistant district attorney Michael Mahoney and attorney for the defense, Rafe Banks, asked the potential jurors about their occupations, families, pets and past interactions with the criminal justice system, and closely questioned them about their relationship with pet stores and groomers.
By Monday afternoon, a jury had been selected in the case, with proceedings scheduled to begin on Tuesday morning at Judge David L. Dickinson’s suggestion.
Root was first arrested on Oct. 11, 2017, after witnesses of an Oct. 7 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.”
Former Paw'sh Paws employees told Cumming 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 FCN.
According to law enforcement records, Root was arrested again on Oct. 17, 2017, for additional charges stemming from an incident in March 2016. Root is 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, 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.
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 FCN “we deny any guilt or criminal intent.”This trial is scheduled to span four days, ending on Nov. 1.