Dog owners seek justice for death of 20 dogs in Gilbert

Posted: Updated:
By Jayson Chesler By Jayson Chesler
By Jayson Chesler By Jayson Chesler
By Jayson Chesler By Jayson Chesler

GILBERT— Dog owners plan to file a civil lawsuit against the owners of Green Acre, the pet-boarding service where 20 dogs died, if an investigation does not lead to criminal charges.

That’s according to their attorney John Schill, who said he is representing them for free.

"This was an accident,” said MaLeisa Hughes, who owns Green Acre with her husband Todd.

And she said that’s exactly what the investigation will find.

The sheriff's office said the dogs died from heat exhaustion after a dog chewed through a wall and wire that shut off the AC.

"My clients want justice," Schill said.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the caretakers told his detectives it happened sometime between 11 Thursday night and 5:30 Friday morning.

Schill said his clients were told the service was like Disneyland, but that it was a death camp instead. Schill said he is representing 5 families who lost their dogs at Green Acre.

"My clients are very concerned as well," Schill said. "When did their dogs die? A lot of them are convinced, and I’m convinced, that this timeline is not correct; that these dogs were dead far longer than what they're telling people."

Dog owners have also asked county attorney Bill Montgomery to get involved.

"I’m going to wait and see exactly what the circumstances are before trying to come up with possible solutions," Montgomery said.

Arpaio said Austin Flake, U.S. Senator Jeff Flake's son, was taking care of the dogs with his wife when the incident happened. He also said that if Austin Flake was at fault, there could be consequences for him.

"This sheriff arrests anybody that violates animal cruelty, no matter what their profession is," Arpaio said.

Montgomery agreed that Flake's relevance in Arizona politics would not impact any potential legal action.

“I don't care who you are, there is no surname defense in Arizona statutes,” Montgomery said.

The sheriff said he is conducting a thorough investigation, re-interviewing Green Acre owners and everyone involved.

MaLeisa Hughes said she has nothing to hide.

"We trust the sheriff," Hughes said. "We have full trust in them that they will get all the facts and do the right thing."