MOUNTAIN GROVE, Mo. – Two employees of a Mountain Grove pet groomer were in a Wright County Courthouse Wednesday morning.
Michelle and Renee Butts are facing misdemeanor charges for animal abuse connected to the June 2023 death of a Cabool man’s service dog.
The hearing was to determine whether the two would plead guilty or set a trial date.
Both Michelle and Renee, despite being co-defendants but represented by different attorneys asked and were granted, more time to consider.
Scooby’s owners Ryan and Nicole Wood say the dragging on of a case nearly four months ago is tiring when trying to get closure.
“Having customers come in on the regular, you know, looking for Scooby, asking about Scooby, it’s definitely re-occurring,” Ryan Wood said. “At the same time, yeah, we’re trying to run a shop, we’re trying to run a business. Having this drag on is not the best thing for, you know, either party. I think at this point, you know, we’re just wanting closure.”
Ryan Wood uses a wheelchair and Scooby was his service animal.
In June, Scooby was dropped off at Fur-Tastic Grooming in Mountain Grove, and within an hour, the authorities and the Woods were called.
“When I read the statement of probable cause, I think I went through all the emotions over again, and even more so, anger, because it was pretty detrimental what I read and it just it really hurt,” Nicole Wood said.
That probable cause statement, obtained by OzarksFirst, illustrates in Michelle and Renee Butts’ words what happened that night.
Authorities say the two told them Scooby, a Mastiff, had trouble keeping his head up during a wash and had to have his head held by staff.
After that washing session, Michelle told police she went to tend to another dog, which Renee admits she left the room to get a snack and then when a new customer came into the groomers’, she checked that customer in.
Renee added when she returned to the room Scooby was in, he was unresponsive.
A vet ruled that Scooby died from choking.
In the probable cause statement, an officer from Animal Control returned the next day to investigate further.
It says ‘ln her report [the ACO] requests [the Butts] to show her how the dog was tied up. It reads that then, Renee retrieved two black choke collars with rubber coating and a dip on one and she stated that she used two of them to attach the dog to a thin rope that was clipped to a bolt on the wall.
The ACO estimated the height to be around four to five feet high.
The report goes on to say Renee stated that the dog was sitting up when she left him and went to the front of the building. The ACO made a note to police that when inspecting the choke collars attached to the wall, she noticed the collars did not reach the floor where the dog had been according to the Butts family. The ACO reports that this could have affected the dog’s breathing if it couldn’t sit or stand.
It is worth noting that OzarksFirst was able to contact Michelle Butts for comment. Butts told OzarksFirst that she is willing to tell her side in a future story but was unavailable to meet Thursday.
The Woods say more needs to be done about dog grooming when it comes to regulations, where there are little to none in the state of Missouri.
“There’s a lot that’s come to light after this in this situation. I’ve actually done some research and almost every state in the United States does not have any regulation on groomers,” Nicole Wood said.
The two are trying to turn Scooby’s death into good for others, starting with the Scooby Doo Project.
“The Scooby Doo project kind of incorporates this whole process of the legal side, plus a dog park potentially,” Ryan Wood said. “I’d like to see like a dog grooming station, kind of like they have at other places where you can bring your dog and groom themselves, potentially have trainers come and show you how to properly groom your dog, have training sessions and stuff like that.”
Plus a law in the works in New Jersey that requires pet groomers to be licensed could pave the way for regulation across the states.
“That would be a benchmark for us, right, to be able to take that piece of legislation and show that it is approved in another state and then try to petition to get it approved in our state and basically just work one state at a time,” Ryan added.
Renee Butts is due in court on November 15.
Michelle is due in court on November 29.