Washington state

She’s charged with abusing 12 dogs and cats. A Tri-Cities groomer faces a lifetime pet ban

What can you do to stop animal abuse?

Witnessing animal abuse can be difficult, but according to the Humane Society of the Unites States, it is important not to turn away from animal cruelty. Here are tips to help stop animal abuse.
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Witnessing animal abuse can be difficult, but according to the Humane Society of the Unites States, it is important not to turn away from animal cruelty. Here are tips to help stop animal abuse.

A Tri-Cities woman who owns a pet grooming business will be permanently banned from having any contact with animals if she is convicted of strangling and abusing customers’ cats and dogs.

The attorney for Michelle L. Burt told a judge this week they anticipate taking the Franklin County Superior Court case to trial later this spring.

That announcement came at the same time Deputy Prosecutor Laura Mapes added more charges for a total 12 counts — 11 for first-degree animal cruelty and one for second-degree animal cruelty.

Every one of the 11 felony counts is for a cat or dog that either died or was left in substantial pain with injuries as a result of the Paw Spa owner’s intentional actions, court documents claim.

The one gross misdemeanor count is for knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence inflicting unnecessary suffering or pain on an animal.

Burt, 29, previously was facing three counts. This is the second change to the charges.

She has pleaded innocent to all charges.

Paw Spa under new management

Mapes told the Tri-City Herald that she initially filed the charges she felt were appropriate for a resolution.

“But when it’s clear the case is going to trial, I allege every count that I believe I can prove,” she said.

Defense lawyer Ryan Swinburnson said in court that he may file a motion to separate the counts for the trial, said Mapes, meaning he could ask for 12 separate trials.

Her current trial is set for May 29.

Burt has been out of custody on her personal recognizance since the case was filed last summer. She still owns the 3501 Road 68 business, but a Jan. 10 Facebook post says it is under new management.

The Richland woman has been told she is to have no contact with pets, including dogs and cats, while awaiting trial.

Pasco groomer installing cameras

A Nov. 2 posting welcomed customers to stay and watch their pets’ grooming in the open-setting salon.

“We will be installing live cameras very soon to provide all pet parents with comfort knowing exactly how their loved one is being treated,” the post added. “You’ll be able to log in from anywhere with any mobile device.”

A Pasco police investigation found that Burt’s alleged actions led to the deaths of at least one dog and a cat.

Several other animals required veterinary visits for broken bones and injuries, including chemical burns from a flea bath given without the owner’s permission, court documents said.

Former employees told police that Burt talked about dominating animals by cutting off their air supply, documents said.

The standard range for first-degree animal cruelty is up to a year in the county jail.

If convicted of even one felony, it will be mandatory for the sentencing judge to order a lifetime ban on owning or caring for any animals, said Mapes. A second-degree animal cruelty charge carries a two-year prohibition.

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Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.


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