NOV. 13, 2014 UPDATE: Austin and Logan Flake both pleaded not guilty today to multiple charges alleging they allowed 21 dogs to die at their kennel, ABC15 Arizona reports. “To accuse them of being animal killers is outrageous,” their attorney, Jack Wilenchik, told reporters. “The dogs were dead or in the process of dying. My clients comforted the dogs. People don’t understand the facts.” The couple’s next court date has been set for Jan. 2.
When nearly two dozen dogs died in June at the Green Acre Boarding Kennel in Gilbert, Ariz., the kennel owners claimed the dogs had chewed through a power cord, causing the air conditioner to shut off. They said the dogs — whose bodies were crammed together in a small room — had died of heat exhaustion.
Kennel owners Jesse and Maleisa Hughes were on vacation in Florida at the time, and had left their daughter and son-in-law, Logan and Austin Flake (who’s the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake), in charge of the dogs.
When the Flakes found the dogs the next morning, they tried to hose them down and ice them, but did not summon emergency help.
“I said from the beginning it doesn’t meet the smell test when you put (so many) dogs in a 9-by-12 room,” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said at a news conference today, according to CBS5AZ.com.
The pet parents of the dogs who died didn’t buy the chewed wire story, either. (Initially Jesse Hughes had lied to some of them, telling them their dogs ran away from the kennel. “That’s the one mistake we’ve made,” Maleisa Hughes told KTAR last month.)
“How could it be an accident if the people that we hired to do the job left town and left our dogs and family members in the hands of someone else?” David Gillette, whose two Golden Retrievers died at the kennel, asked CBS5AZ.com.
After conducting an extensive investigation — during which the kennel remained open for business — the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) determined that the dogs had not chewed through the wire. The doors to the room in which at least 30 dogs were kept was sealed with duct tape to prevent the stench from entering the rest of the house, according to the MCSO report. The lack of air is likely what killed the dogs.
Today Jesse and Maleisa Hughes were each charged with 22 felony and seven misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, as well as one felony count of fraudulent schemes and artifices.
Logan and Austin Flake were each charged with 21 felony and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.
Last month, several pet parents whose dogs died at Green Acre filed a civil lawsuit against Jesse and Maleisa Hughes. Attorney John Schill told KTAR the pet parents had been assured that Green Acre was a “doggie Disneyland” with a large yard in which to play — when, in fact, all the dogs were kept in the small room.
“My clients want change here. They want accountability,” Schill said. “They don’t want Green Acre to accept dogs in the future. They don’t want it to operate as a boarding facility.”
To raise awareness of animal cruelty and raise funds to help save dogs’ lives, the “Gilbert 23” rescue mission has been created in memory of the dogs killed at Green Acre.
“At least 70 dogs — who weren’t supposed to live through Saturday — were rescued in an effort by ‘Gilbert 23’ families hoping to turn their grief into something positive,” according to a post in late August by the Facebook community The Tragedy at Green Acre Dog Boarding Gilbert, AZ. “The $13,000 raised will be evenly distributed per dog saved to the partnering rescues to assist with their care.”
Today, when a CBS5AZ.com reporter asked Green Acre kennel owner Maleisa Hughes for a comment, she said, “It’s my beautiful daughter’s 15th birthday. Also, her high school volleyball team is undefeated, and they just took out Marcos in two. That’s my statement.”
Nice. Apparently she has no remorse over those 23 beautiful dogs who will never have another birthday.
The next court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23.
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