4 Charged in deaths of 21 dogs at Gilbert kennelPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- The owners and caretakers of a Gilbert boarding facility where 21 dogs died have been indicted on multiple animal cruelty charges, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
More than 20 dogs were found dead or injured at Green Acre Dog Boarding near Greenfield and Queen Creek roads on June 21.
Kennel owners Todd and MaLeisa Hughes said the animals died of heat exhaustion after one dog chewed through the air conditioner's power cord, but Maricopa County Sheriff's investigators reportedly found no evidence that a chewed-up wire was to blame.
A veterinarian who performed necropsies on some of the dogs said they likely suffocated to death in the 8-by-12-foot room.
The Hugheses were out of town and had left their daughter, Logan Flake, and son-in-law, Austin Flake, in charge of the animals. Austin Flake is the son of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.
"We were deceived from the moment we dropped our dogs off here, and I believe they were con artists," said Shannon Gillette, whose two golden retrievers died at the facility. "They were our family, and they were killed by these people."
The sheriff's office investigated the deaths and, on Aug. 27, submitted findings to the county attorney's office.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said at a press conference Wednesday night that this case was one of the toughest and most complex his office has investigated.
"This better set an example that no one is immune when they violate those animal cruelty laws," Arpaio said.
Dog owners who have been waiting months for charges gathered outside the Green Acre facility on Wednesday, relieved to finally see some action.
"It's healing, healing our hearts," said Jacqueline Heath, who lost three dogs in the tragedy. "I've had comments about replacing our dogs. You could never replace our dogs."
In the grand jury indictment, Todd and MaLeisa Hughes are each charged with 22 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, and one felony count of fraudulent schemes and artifices.
Austin and Logan Flake are each charged with 21 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.
"Today's indictment is the result of a thorough review of the extensive investigation into this incident and a decision to seek charges based on objective facts," Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a statement. "We now look forward to the next step in seeing that justice is served in this case."
The four defendants have been summoned to appear in court on Oct. 23.