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‘Meko’s Law’ moves ahead

A proposed ordinance named after a local dog allegedly killed by a groomer is picking up steam.

Recently, commissioners voted 4-0, with the District 2 seat vacant, to move ahead with the proposed “Meko’s Law.” Among the changes are no longer allowing dogs to be tethered when the owner is not present and permitting and background checks for employees that handle animals as businesses.

The change will go to a public hearing at the commission’s Dec. 7 meeting.

One change County Attorney Ken Jarrard said he couldn’t recommend was background checks before adopting animals from the county’s animal shelter.

“I think it would have a perverse disincentive of people even wanting to do business with our animal facilities,” Jarrard said. “But if we wanted to do something simple, like add on the application form some sort of certification that says, ‘I’ve never been convicted in any state of this country of animal cruelty or animal neglect,’ we can do that.”

He said if anyone lied on the paperwork, they could be subject to a felony for falsifying documents.

Jarrard also said he could not “comfortably recommend” the county have an ordinance barring those with felony animal cruelty convictions from owning animals due to due process and enforcement concerns.

“But, I could bring [commissioners] a recommendation that we could modify our animal control ordinance to allow the magistrate judge, as part of a sentencing for a violation of the county’s animal cruelty ordinance, to have an option of imposing no further ownership of animals as part of the sentencing requirements," he said.

Gwinnett County, Jarrard said, has a similar policy.

The purpose of the ordinance is to fill loopholes in existing county code, in part due to additional allegations and charges that accuse Paw’sh Paws owner Michelle Root of allegedly causing the death of multiple dogs during her time as a groomer.

According to law enforcement records obtained by the Forsyth County News, witnesses told Cumming police officers Root choked, kicked and knocked a dog named Meko to the ground on Oct. 7 during the dog’s grooming session.

Witness Heather Boyd further told police “that when Root kicked Meko, she had kicked him in the head and that Root bounced Meko off the wall and a tub before slamming him on the table,” an incident report says.

On Oct. 11, Root was charged with felony animal cruelty to animals and a week later was arrested for the same charge, though stemming from an alleged separate incident that is said to have occurred in March 2016.

Currently, dog groomers are required to obtain a local business license and a Georgia Department of Agriculture kennel license prior to opening a grooming shop.

The Department of Agriculture can deny, suspend or revoke a license for violating the agency’s Animal Protection Act, which includes an article prohibiting a licensee or licensee’s employee from: committing a violation of Georgia Code Section 16-12-4, relating to cruelty to animals; failing to keep the pet dealership premises, animal shelter, kennel, or stable in a good state of repair, in a clean and sanitary condition, adequately ventilated, or disinfected when needed; failing to provide humane care for any animal; or failing to take reasonable care to release for sale, trade, or adoption only those animals that appear to be free of disease, injuries, operate.

Businesses found to be in violation of the act are also not banned from operating again and can apply for a license at another time.

Staff reporter Isabel Hughes contributed to this report.