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Tag: arizona

Jury finds former sheriff Arpaio wasn’t malicious in prosecution of Sen. Flake’s son


The son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake was not maliciously prosecuted when Sheriff Joe Arpaio sought to bring charges against him in connection with the deaths of 21 dogs at an Arizona kennel, a civil court jury has ruled.

Four people, including Flake’s son, Austin, were indicted on 21 felony counts of animal cruelty in connection with the 2014 deaths, attributed to heat exhaustion.

Then-Sheriff Arpaio urged the filing of the charges against Austin Flake and his then-wife, Logan Brown, who had been supervising the care of the dogs at the Green Acre boarding kennel in Gilbert while its owners, Brown’s parents, were away.

All charges were later were dropped by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office because the grand jury didn’t hear about issues with the air-conditioning in the room where the dogs were kept.

Flake and Brown sued Arpaio for malicious prosecution in 2015. The lawsuit didn’t ask for a specific amount in damages, but an earlier notice of claim sought $8 million.

Last week a panel of eight jurors in a civil trial against Arpaio decided Flake had not proven the prosecutions were malicious.

U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake did not issue a final verdict, saying he is awaiting an explanation from defense attorneys on their failure to turn over documents that may have benefited the plaintiffs.

Jurors began deliberating at 5 p.m. Thursday and reached a verdict 90 minutes later, the Arizona Republic reported.

Arpaio and plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Montoya confirmed the outcome of the case after a six-day trial.

Montoya said Arpaio used the case to boost his image through publicity stunts and by holding repeated press conferences. He pointed to a press conference in which Arpaio showed the media photos of the dead dogs, and a Sheriff’s Office-commissioned helicopter search for one dog from the kennel who had gone missing.

Montoya in his closing arguments said that while there was media interest in the case before Arpaio’s involvement, the lawman inflamed the coverage.

“Would there have been publicity? Sure. Would it have died down but for Sheriff Joe releasing press releases, including the pictures of the dead dogs?… Sheriff Joe wouldn’t let it die down, and then these kids were indicted,” Montoya said.

“I want to thank the jury of my peers for their decision in the Flake lawsuit,” Arpaio said after verdict. “We’ll have more to say about the Flake situation and the politics at the appropriate time.”

Arpaio was pardoned by President Trump in August, sparing the controversial former sheriff a jail sentence after he was convicted of criminal contempt related to his hard-line tactics going after undocumented immigrants.

(Photo: Ross D. Franklin / AP)

Dog racing in Arizona is a thing of the past


Seventy-two years after it opened, Tucson Greyhound Park saw its final dog race Saturday night.

The track’s popularity had been declining for decades, but it wasn’t until Arizona’s legislature passed a bill earlier this year ending dog racing that its demise was sealed.

The park had been struggling since casinos opened in Arizona, offering gamblers a faster form of gratification.

“It’s no mystery,” said Michael Racy, a spokesman and lobbyist for the track for over 20 years. “As more casinos have opened, it’s gotten tougher and tougher.”

Phoenix closed its greyhound track more than seven years ago.

The owners of Tucson Greyhound Park, Joseph Zappala and Philip Robert Consolo Jr. of Florida, are still evaluating what to do with the property, Racy told the Arizona Daily Star.

The 60-acre facility will remain open for now, offering simulcast racing.

Even before the bill was passed, dogs began leaving the facility, most of them going to rescues.

Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption has taken in about 50 dogs since April, and Arizona Greyhound Rescue has taken in about 20.

Greyhound racing remains legal in five states.

(Photo: Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star)

Four indicted in Green Acre boarding deaths


The owners of Green Acre Dog Boarding and two caretakers, including the son of a senator, were indicted yesterday on animal cruelty charges in connection with the deaths of more than 20 dogs at the kennel in Gilbert.

Owners Jesse Todd Hughes and his wife, Maleisa Hughes, were indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury on 22 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, and one felony count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, according to County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s office.

The two caretakers in charge of the kennel while the owners were on vacation in June — Logan Flake, the Hughes’ daughter, and her husband, Austin Flake — were indicted on 21 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.

Austin is the son of U.S Sen. Jeff Flake,R-Ariz. All four defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 23, the Arizona Republic reported.

The indictments came after more than four months of investigation by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s offie, which learned early on that 28 dogs at the kennel had spent the night in one 9-foot-by-12-foot room.

Some customers arriving to pick up their dogs were told their pets had run away, when in fact they had died.

“How would you like your dog stuffed in a small room? Twenty-eight dogs,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Wednesday night. “Think about that. I feel sorry for the owners. … This has been one of the toughest cases we have worked. We had over 17 people work this case, between the posse, other volunteers, our deputies.”

The Hughes told investigators that a dog had apparently chewed through a wire, cutting off  the air-conditioning in the single room they were being kept in, but the air conditioning was found to be functioning.

A spokesman for the county attorney’s office said the charges stem from the deaths of 21 dogs and the injury of four others at the kennel.

“We have to prove how each of those dogs died,” said Jerry Cobb. “They basically suffocated. They were in a tight room without enough air.”

One of the dogs escaped from the kennel and was found on the side of a Gilbert road weeks later, hit by a car.

Dennis Wilenchik, an attorney for the Flakes, said he will file a motion to dismiss the case or remand it back to the grand jury. “They’re innocent,” he said. “They will be proven innocent. There is no evidence to convict them of any felony charge.”

(Photo: Green Acre client Valerie Collins looks under a blanket where her two dogs lie; by D.S. Woodfill / The Republic)

Felony charges urged in Green Acre case


Justice for the more than 20 dogs who died at an Arizona boarding kennel came one step closer this week with a recommendation from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office that both felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges be brought against the kennel’s owners and two caretakers, one of them the son of a U.S. senator.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he is recommending prosecutors file 21 felony charges of neglect against Todd and MaLeisia Hughes, who own Green Acre Dog Boarding in Gilbert; their daughter Logan Flake; and her her husband, Austin Flake, who is the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

The final decision on filing charges will be made by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the Arizona Republic reported. He says that process could take a few weeks.

Authorities found 21 dead dogs on the property June 21 when they went to the kennel after customers began learning something was amiss.

Some customers whose dogs had died while cramped with more than 25 others in a 12-by-12-foot laundry room were told their dogs had run away. Later, the kennel owners said there had been a “freak accident” that knocked out the room’s air conditioning.

The sheriff’s department investigation concluded the dogs died of “apparent suffocation and overheating.”

Two other dogs also died, including one who ran away.

The kennel owners were on vacation in Florida when the dogs died, and had left the animals in the care of the Flakes.

Sheriff Arpaio, said to have a soft spot for dogs, vowed at the investigation’s start to get to the bottom of what happened:  “If a crime occurred, someone will be held accountable,” he said. It took nearly three months to accomplish that, but Arpaio was being praised this week, by the owners of pets who died and some members of the news media.

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts commended Arpaio’s actions, saying, “Of course, there are bigger cases to be cracked, more horrifying things that happen to humans every day. But on this day, there is no more important story than this one and the statement that it makes.

“For Parker and Rosie and Zed. For Ellie and Roxie and Francis.For Remy and Buick. For Valor and Patrick and Sonny.

“For a pair of Bernese Mountain dogs named Carson and Daisy.

“For all good dogs everywhere.”

(Photo: A memorial created near the Green Acre kennel in Gilbert to commemorate the more than 20 dogs that died there; by Corina Vanek / The Republic)

Fatcat finally catches some breaks


For eight years, Fatcat led a life that was the opposite of her name — in many ways.

For starters, she wasn’t a cat.

And, as bulldogs go, she wasn’t too awfully fat.

And, from all appearances, she definitely did not enjoy the kind of  lifestyle the term Fatcat name might connote — she wasn’t idly resting in the lap of luxury. Far from it.

Instead, in the eight years after she was stolen as a puppy from the backyard of a home in Memphis, it’s believed she was used to produce puppies, by a less than ethical breeder who dumped her once she got too old.

fatcatasapupThe English bulldog was stolen in 2006 from the yard of LaShena Harris. She searched high and low for the dog, and though Fatcat had been microchipped, she was never found.

Until two weeks ago, when she was picked up as a stray and dropped off at a shelter in Arkansas.

There — at  the West Memphis Animal Shelter — she was scanned for a microchip, and Harris was tracked down, even though she’d long since moved to the Phoenix area.

Along with the good news, Harris received some bad news. Fatcat was in sad shape due to the years she spent as a baby-making machine —  and getting her to Phoenix was going to be a problem.

Fatcat was too big to ride in the cabin of a plane, and between her health problems and her breed — it’s risky to transport short-snouted dogs in a plane’s cargo hold — flying her home wasn’t going to work. Harris, a working single mother, wasn’t sure she could take time off to make the drive.

“I went from the highest high to the lowest low,” she said. Putting Fatcat down was discussed, but before consenting Harris asked the shelter for an extra 24 hours to make the decision.

When she called back the next day to authorize the shelter to euthanize Fatcat, the director of the shelter stopped her short, and offered a suggestion.

A friend of the shelter director who worked with a local rescue group was moving to Scottsdale, and offered to drive Fatcat there.

Harris and Fatcat were reunited last Thursday in a motel parking lot, and between media coverage of the reunion and a GoFundMe.com campaign, donations have poured in — about $6,500 so far — to help pay for Fatcat’s mounting medical bills.

“I am overwhelmed. It is just amazing. People don’t even know me and they are helping me out,” Harris, 34, of Glendale, said. “I’ve even gotten e-mails from the (United Kingdom). … I just don’t know what to say.”

On Monday, Fatcat was checked out by a local veterinarian who found she has heartworms, dental problems and masses around her vulva and anus that need to be removed, according to AzCentral.com

Harris launched the GoFundMe page with a $5,000 goal, and says she plans to donate any surplus to the shelter in Arkansas.

“How do you show gratitude to someone you’ve never met?” Harris wrote on her page. “Even if I don’t have Fatcat home for as long (in terms of her entire lifespan), I feel like the luckiest person in the world right now. I’m just glad she’s finally home.”

(Top photo: Patrick Breen / The Arizona Republic; bottom photo, Fatcat as a puppy, from LaShena Harris’ GoFundMe page)

Search finds little evidence to back up claim that chewed-through wire led to deaths

Necropsies conducted on some of the victims, and an intensive search of the Arizona boarding kennel where more than 20 dogs died, have revealed no evidence supporting the belief that a chewed-through electrical cord led to the deaths.

That, ever since the dogs died virtually overnight nearly a month ago, has been the claim of kennel owner MaLeisa Hughes, seen defending herself (and attacking the news media) in the raw interview footage above.

Hughes and her husband, Todd Hughes, were out of town when the dogs died, and had left the dogs under the supervision of their daughter, Logan Flake, and her husband, Austin Flake, who is the son of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.

The dogs — some dead, some dying — were discovered early in the morning on June 20, most of them held in the same 9-foot by 12-foot room.

Upon their return, Hughes’ husband told at least some of the owners of the deceased dogs that their pets had run away — another inconsistency MaLeisa Hughes attempts to explain in this June 23 meeting outside the kennel with the news media.

Last week, Maricopa County Sheriff’s detectives searched Green Acre Dog Boarding in Gilbert, seizing parts of an air conditioning system to determine if it failed.

Necropsies performed on seven of the 21 dogs also found no evidence to validate the kennel-owners’ statement that a dog had chewed through an electrical wire and cut the power to an air conditioning unit.

“On the dogs that were necropsied, there was no evidence found to support or suggesting electrocution,” concluded Dr. Bernard Mangone, the veterinarian who performed the necropsies at Palm Glen Animal Hospital. He said results indicate the dogs suffocated, but that more testing is required to pinpoint a cause of death.

Tissue samples were sent to the University of Arizona for further testing and to the University of Michigan to determine if the dogs were drugged, according to Arizona Republic.

Mangone wrote that it is possible the dogs died of heat stroke or lack of oxygen.

“The dogs begin to pant and become agitated which increases both their oxygen need and the amount of (carbon dioxide) they are producing,” Mangone wrote.

The search warrant indicates that investigators confiscated computers, cell phones and records associated with the operation of the facility, CBS 5 reported. Detectives also took samples of insulation and wiring from the small room where the dogs were found dead.

As of today, no arrests have been made and no criminal charges have been filed.

Deputies conduct search of Green Acre


Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies have finally conducted a search at the Gilbert boarding facility where 22 dogs died last month, seizing computers, cell phones, business documents, wiring, drywall and the body of yet another dead dog.

The remains of one dog buried on the property at Green Acre Dog Boarding were exhumed during the search, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.

The sheriff’s office brought along two electrical experts who concluded that, even if the air conditioning was working in the room where the dogs died, the air flow may not have been sufficient to keep them alive, according to the East Valley Tribune.

The business owners claim one of the dogs chewed through a wire which shorted out the air conditioning to the 9 by 12 foot room where 28 dogs were being kept.

Arpaio said Wednesday that the experts “suspect that even if the air conditioning system to that small room was functioning the day these dogs died, the air flow in that size room with so many large dogs inside it may not have been sufficient to keep those dogs alive.”

Arpaio said the owner of the boarding kennel, MaLeisa Hughes, was “somewhat hostile and uncooperative” during the search.

Sheriff’s detectives still haven’t re-interviewed the couple that was taking care of the animals while the business owners were out of town — Logan Flake, who is the owner’s daughter, and Austin Flake, her husband, who is the son of Sen. Jeff Flake.

Arpaio said Logan and Austin Flake left the state. When they were found and contacted in Provo, Utah they refused to answer any questions, Arpaio said.

Arpaio said he believes detectives will be able to make a determination soon about whether there’s enough evidence to file criminal charges against the owners and caretakers.