Cumming police officers are “actively looking” for a dog groomer who was arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty last week following the death of a dog at her local pet grooming and bathing company.
Michelle Louise Root, 41, of Gainesville, who is the owner of Paw’sh Paws in Cumming, allegedly choked, kicked in the head and “bounced [the dog] off the wall,” on Oct. 7 during its grooming session.
Root was charged with felony cruelty to animals on Oct. 11 after witnesses filed reports with the Cumming Police Department following the dog's death, according to law enforcement records.
On Oct. 18, officers with the Cumming Police Department, with assistance from Hall County Sheriff's Office deputies, executed two search warrants simultaneously on Root’s business and home, where they “were looking for documents and records to corroborate the stories” of other possible victims, according to Deputy Chief Aletha Barrett, spokeswoman for the department.
“We have received multiple phone calls from other potential victims that reach all the way back to the early 2000s,” she said. “We are still waiting on veterinarian reports and a lot of different things in terms of the investigation, but the complaints [go back to] 2003 when she worked at PetSmart.
“We’re following up on other leads and are waiting on some other people to come in and make statements but a lot of the things we got today in the search warrants should help us.”
Barrett said Cumming police have also taken out a warrant for Root’s arrest for felony animal cruelty stemming from an incident several years ago.
While she did not elaborate on that incident, Barrett said the new charge was not related to Meko’s death.
Witnesses, who work at the pet spa and did not want to be identified, told police last week they saw Root “kick Meko twice, knocking Meko into the door, [take] the lead and choke Meko to the point of unconsciousness” after the dog ran to the back of the store with the grooming lead still around its neck.
“[The witness] said Root then dragged Meko to the front of the store, banging Meko against the washer and other objects before throwing Meko on the table and attempting to finish Meko’s grooming,” an incident report said. “[The witness] said Meko was unresponsive at this point."
The report said when a friend of Meko’s owner, Eric Francis, came to pick up the dog, he was told that the dog, “must have had a seizure.”
One of the witnesses said when she questioned Root’s story, she was told, “to be quiet, that the dog had a seizure and that was it.”
Francis told the Forsyth County News that when he went to retrieve Meko, Root and staff told him that the dog was “just really relaxed,” but that Root was, in fact, “grooming a dead dog on their table.”
Paw’sh Paws re-opened briefly after Root bonded out of jail after the first charges were filed, but closed once the incident became public. Demonstrators have been protesting in front of almost daily.
Barrett said Cumming police would like Root to turn herself in regarding the most recent charge.
This story will be updated.