Dog deaths: 'Gilbert 23' protesters not impressed with Sen. Flake

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Jill Galus with Dennis Welch

Posted on August 5, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 8 at 11:55 AM

GILBERT, Ariz. -- When Sen. Jeff Flake was honored with an award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce award Tuesday morning, some of the people who attended the event were there to applaud him.

Several protesters gathered outside the Val Vista Lakes Clubhouse during the Spirit of Enterprise Breakfast with Jeff Flake as part of a peaceful demonstration to raise awareness about the deaths of 23 dogs at a Gilbert boarding facility earlier this summer.

The boarding facility, Green Acre, belongs to the family of Flake's son's wife. The owners who lost dogs say Austin Flake and his wife were caring for the dogs when they died on June 20.

The owners of Green Acre originally said the dogs died of heat exhaustion after one of them chewed through a power cord, killing the air conditioning.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office served two separate search warrants at the property. They did not find any evidence to support the owners' explanation.

A veterinarian who performed necropsies on some of the dogs said it appears that they suffocated to death.

The protesters had two main goals Tuesday morning.

"We'd like to see some sort of reaction," Veronica Barbieri, one of the protesters, told 3TV's Jill Galus. "He has not issued a statement yet about it."

They not only want somebody to be held accountable, they also want laws created to hold animal boarding facilities to specific standards.

When Flake left the event, he spoke briefly with the protesters. They were not impressed.

"The truth of the matter is Sen. Flake has an abysmal record on humane legislation," one woman told 3TV's Jill Galus. "I don't believe he was sincere. I don't believe his remarks were sincere. I believe his son is following in his father's footsteps. I have not changed my opinion of Sen. Flake."

"It was nice that he did at least acknowledge us. I'll give him credit for that," Linda Buchanan said. "To me, it was like good PR for him, makes him look like he's concerned."

3TV political editor Dennis Welch was at the breakfast and tried to broach the topic of Green Acre with Flake.

"This is not something he wants to talk about," Welch said. Flake's response to most of the questions about Green Acre and his son's involvement in what happened there? "No comment."

"He did seem to be open to the idea of potentially supporting more regulation for these types of kennels," Welch continued, pointing out that this is the second time one of Flake's sons has been caught in the center of controversy in the past year.

"This is not something that the senator really wants to talk about," Welch said. "That was obvious very obvious today with the way he was reacting to us in the media."

The investigation into Green Acre is ongoing, but at this point, no charges have been filed in connection with the dogs' deaths.

The owners of the dogs who died at Green Acre, now known as the Gilbert 23, have come together to honor their lost pets by saving others.

"The owners of the Gilbert 23 would like to turn this tragic event into something positive and help leave a legacy for their dogs that died," reads the group's GoFundMe.com page.

To that end, they created the Gilbert 23 Rescue Mission, the goal of which is to rescue dogs that are at risk of being euthanized at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control's two shelters on Aug. 23. The group is hosting a fundraising event this weekend.

More stories about dog deaths at Green Acre boarding facility in Gilbert

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