Dog owner says Flakes are not victims in Green Acre case

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Two people once charged in the deaths of more than 20 dogs at a Gilbert boarding facility are fighting back after those charges were dropped.

More than 20 dogs reportedly died of heat exhaustion in June under Austin and Logan Flake's care, while the Green Acre owners, Todd and Maleisa Hughes, were away. Austin Flake is the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

Heather Wicker's dog, Remington, died there. She said her other dog, Valor, went missing from Green Acre. He was later found dead on the side of a road.

"This is something that we're scarred from,” Wicker said.

All four were charged with animal cruelty. But just this past December, the county attorney dropped those charges, saying evidence showed the air conditioner failed during the night and the dog deaths could be accidental.

"It was a complete slap in the face," Wicker said.

Now, the Flakes have filed a notice of claim against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other county officials involved in the investigation.

They’re asking for an $8 million settlement for causing them mental anguish, distress, and irreparable injury to their good names, reputations and future prospects.

"To be indicted by a grand jury for serious felonies after the accidental death of a pet is unconscionable. We've all had pets that have died in accidental ways," said attorney Jack Wilenchik.

"They think that they're damaged? I'm sorry, but they're not the victim here," Wicker said. “We, the Gilbert 23, are the real victims in this case."

"We express a lot of sympathy with them,” Wilenchik said. "The family pet died as well, and I can't express it enough, the death of any pet is terrible. But to be indicted for felony crimes that were never committed is a terrible thing, too, and that's what this lawsuit is about."

Arpaio is not commenting on camera about this notice of claim, but his office sent this statement:

“The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the notice of claim, and obviously disagrees with the allegations and characterizations of the criminal investigation. Because the criminal case is ongoing, to include a review by prosecutors of all available evidence regarding potential charges of animal cruelty, we will not comment further.”

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