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Local groomer pleads not guilty in animal cruelty case
Michelle Louise Root
Michelle Louise Root

A former Forsyth County area dog groomer was confronted by a number of protesters holding #Justice4Meko signs during a court appearance on Wednesday.  During that hearing, Michelle Louise Root pleaded not guilty to charges of cruelty to animals stemming from incidents in 2016 and 2017 that allegedly led to the death of dogs in her care.

Root, a former Gainesville resident and owner of Paw’sh Paws in Cumming, was formally charged in early April with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, and is accused of kicking, choking and otherwise harming two dogs, according to indictment documents.

Root was first arrested Oct. 11, 2017, after witnesses of an Oct. 7 incident filed reports with 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, 2017 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.

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.”

Root’s next court appearance will be a calendar call hearing on June 8, where a trial date could be set.