What can you do to stop animal abuse?
The owner of a Pasco pet grooming business is ordered to stay away from pets while fighting allegations she abused customers’ cats and dogs.
Michelle L. Burt’s actions at Paw Spa led to the deaths of at least one dog and a cat, and veterinary visits for several animals with broken bones and other injuries.
“When confronted by animal owners, Burt would pay all the vet bills, if they complained,” Pasco police Officer Tom Ninemire wrote in court documents.
Paw Spa has been in business for a few years at 3501 Road 68.
Burt, who lives in Richland, was charged Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court with one count of first-degree animal cruelty, a felony.
She was arrested late last week, but released without bail.
During the first appearance, Court Commissioner Pamela Peterson told Burt that the no-contact order included dogs and cats. But the issue can be discussed again at a later hearing, she said.
Deputy Prosecutor Laura Mapes told the Herald she is waiting on more documents from police. “Once I have everything come in, I’ll reassess if there should be any further charges,” she said.
Burt is scheduled to enter a plea Aug. 28.
An officer with the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter & Control Services first contacted police in June about animal abuse allegations involving Burt.
Ninemire interviewed Burt’s former employees, along with pet owners, who reported that Burt was seen many times abusing customers’ dogs and cats, court documents said.
Burt told employees that she would “dominate” animals by placing large dogs on the grooming table with the lead rope around their neck and putting her hands around the necks of small dogs to cut off their air supply, documents said.
She allegedly grabbed one dog by the genitals and used her fingernails to cause severe pain so the dog would comply.
It was reported that some dogs would pass out from being strangled, then urinate and defecate. A cat allegedly died after once being strangled by Burt, said documents.
Witnesses also reported that Burt pushed a dog off the grooming table so it was hanging by the lead rope, picked up dogs over her head and threw them to the ground, and broke broomsticks over the backs of bigger dogs.
In another incident, she left an older dog in a bathtub for a significant length of time, court documents said. She then told a co-worker to remove the dog from the tub and blow dry it.
When that employee picked up the dog, it was cold and shaking. The dog was placed on a grooming table, then the animal seized up and died, documents said.
Ninemire wrote that he got veterinarian reports for two separate dogs: one needed a broken leg repaired, and the other had internal injuries that required a liter of fluid to be drained from its stomach area.
Another cat owner said her cat suffered burned flesh and an open wound from chemical burns after a flea bath, court documents said.
The owner reporting dropping off her cat July 13 to be groomed by Burt. She gave the cat, who never leaves the house, a flea bath without the owner’s permission, documents said.
The owner said her cat was at the groomer for six hours, instead of the usual three hours, and once home was not seen for two days while dealing with the chemical burns. The cat required treatment from a veterinarian.