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Tag: deaths

Four indicted in Green Acre boarding deaths

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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

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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)

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.

One more dead dog, but no more answers, in Arizona’s Green Acre Dog Boarding case

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Sometimes really big stories that raise really huge questions that demand really immediate answers have a way of slipping out of the public eye.

Sometimes that’s the fault of lazy news organizations failing to fulfill their watchdog function. Sometimes it’s a result of less than vigilant police investigation. Sometimes it’s the result of behind the scenes orchestrations by the subjects involved.

I’m not sure which is the case with the story of Green Acre Dog Boarding, where 21 dogs died virtually overnight, but 40 years as a newspaper reporter, watching stories surge and ebb, tells me this one seems to be vanishing from the headlines too fast — despite a large and continuing public outcry.

More than two weeks after the 21 dogs died — almost all of them paid guests at the boarding center — the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has filed charges against no one, and has yet to obtain a warrant to further search the property,Fox News in Phoenix reports.

Nor have deputies re-interviewed the people who were supposed to be caring for the dogs, including the couple assigned to watch over them that weekend, Austin and Logan Flake. (Austin Flake is the son of Sen. Jeff Flake. Logan Flake is the daughter of the boarding center’s owners, who were out of town when the dogs died.)

“We do not know where Austin and his wife are, but I am sure that we will make contact soon,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio said last week.

While the sheriff is a dog lover, and while he has promised the investigation will be a meticulous one, some folks sense his office is taking too casual an attitude about the case.

Fox reported that the sheriff’s office has interviewed many of the owners of the dead dogs. But since their first visit to the home two Saturdays ago, they haven’t re-interviewed the owners of the business or the Flakes.

The only new news about the case came over this past weekend, when a dog who was missing from the kennel was found dead on the side of a road, four miles away.

A bicyclist spotted the dog’s body and suspected the German shepherd mix was Valor, the dog who ran away from the Green Acre Dog Boarding in Gilbert.

Valor had apparently been hit by a car, sheriff’s officials said at a press conference Saturday, according to the Arizona Republic.

Arpaio again said the investigation into the 21 heat-related deaths at the kennel is ongoing. ”It takes time to obtain evidence. The facts will come out,” he said.

Some dog owners were told their dogs had “run away” from the kennel when, in reality, they had died from the heat and their bodies were being stored in a shed. Questions have also been raised about why veterinarians weren’t called to the kennel so they could receive proper treatment.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the boarding center, staff told them that one of the boarded dogs had chewed through a wall and through a wire overnight, knocking out power to the air conditioner.

It’s not clear whether that was a lie, but owners and operators of the kennel have told enough other ones that you’d think they would have been interrogated by now.

At a vigil last weekend many of the dog’s owners questioned why it was taking investigators so long to get a search warrant. Most believe the deaths of the dogs — all lodged in the same small room — to be a result of neglect by the kennel operators.

Green Acre is no longer operating as a kennel, according to its listing on Yelp.com.

But angry dog lovers are continuing to post “reviews” on the website.

One satirical comment, from Richard B., reads:

“When I want to mass execute dogs holocaust style green acres dog boarding is #1!!! Not only do they execute all dogs you provide them, they make sure to do it as slow and painful as possible so those dogs really have time to dwell on their eminent demise. I really love the lack of water and supervision that was given as well. Why waste water and time on dogs that are goin to be exterminated anyway? That’d just be foolish. Green acres really has dog mistreatment down to a science. Don’t worry about pesky police punishing anyone for neglect. Green acres has years of proven experience in misdirection and misinformation that’ll have even the most relentless detectives confused and unconcerned.”

Some commenters are also complaining that their negative remarks about Green Acre have been removed from Yelp,  and are asking why.

Cary H. wrote, “Green Acres killed my 3 dogs and 19 others last week. I hope they have shut down. Yelp please don’t delete this truthful post as you have all the others. You could be saving a dogs life by keeping this up!”

“People have a right to know what happened and we very much rely on sites like Yelp to make an educated decision,” one comment read. “And even if, this investigation isn’t fully completed, factual reports should remain up. Personal reviews and ratings is why we come to Yelp! Deleting reviews makes us question Yelps integrity and the reviews posted throughout the site…”

More questions arise about Gilbert kennel

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Workers at a Gilbert dog boarding operation were checking in newly-arrived dogs even as they stashed the corpses of other canine guests in a shed on the property.

That’s just one of the latest disturbing revelations in the case of Green Acre Dog Boarding, where 20 dogs were found dead from suspected heat-related causes last weekend.

The Arizona Republic reported yesterday that at least one customer checked her dogs in at about the same time workers were hiding the bodies of dogs who had perished and attempting to revive dogs who were dying.

Snow Aubel said she phoned the Green Acre Dog Boarding facility to confirm her pets’ drop-off time at about 10 a.m. Saturday morning and told the facility’s owner, Todd Hughes, she could be there within the hour.

He assured her that would be no problem, she said.

She dropped off her 7-year-old Weimaraner, Cheyenne, and 6-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, Yepa, Saturday — apparently just hours before sheriff’s deputies began arriving at the boarding center.

Her dogs stayed at the facility until Sunday afternoon, when word started spreading about the deaths and a representative from the online booking site she used to make the reservation alerted her the dogs should be moved.

“What really makes me upset is when I was there the poor dogs that had passed away were right underneath my nose, and I didn’t even know it,” Snow said. “… They should not have accepted any more dogs.”

sheriffpics2In total, 20 of the 28 dogs the Sheriff’s Office found at the facility perished. Cheyenne and Yepa were alive and unharmed.

Workers told investigators that the dogs were last checked on Thursday at about 11 p.m.

They say when they returned, at 5:30 a.m. Friday, a large number were discovered dead. Others were on the brink of death.

Sheriff’s Office officials initially called the deaths a “tragic accident,” based on the owners’ claims that one of the dogs chewed through an electrical cord, turning off the air conditioning.

But Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Monday said that designation may have been premature. He promised a thorough investigation.

Arpaio said the owners’ timeline didn’t add up: “How can you be healthy at 11 o’clock and dead at 5:30 in the morning? I think that’s the key element,” he said.

Much else about the case doesn’t add up either:

Temperatures that night weren’t too hot — by Phoenix standards — staying in the 80s. At least 17 dogs were boarded in one 10-foot by 10-foot laundry room. Veterinarians weren’t called when staff started finding dead and dying dogs. And the owners told at least some clients that their dogs, who had perished, had “run away.”

On top of that, kennel workers hosed the sick dogs down and applied ice to them, which is contrary to recommended treatment for heat exhaustion, and can lead to dogs going into shock.

The owners of the kennel, Todd and MaLeisa Hughes, were out of town when the dogs died, but they cut their trip to Florida short upon learning of the deaths. In their absence, the boarded dogs were being cared for by the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz), Austin Flake, and his wife Logan.

The sheriffs office, which released photos of what was found at the kennel this week, said political connections won’t influence their investigation.

(Photos: Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

20 dogs died at Arizona boarding facility

Maricopa County sheriff’s officials are investigating the deaths of 20 dogs, most of whom died overnight at a pet boarding service in Gilbert, Arizona.

Deputies say a dog chewed through an electric cord, shutting down the air conditioning and leading to the heat-related deaths of the dogs in the care of Green Acre Dog Boarding.

That temperatures didn’t rise above 80 degrees that night is just one of several suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths.

The caretakers for the dog’s over the weekend were identified by Fox 10 News as the son and daughter-in-law of US Senator Jeff Flake.

The couple were caring for the dogs while the company’s owners — identified as MaLeisa and Todd Hughes — were visiting Florida.

“This is truly an accident,” co-owner MaLeisa Hughes said. “We’re heartbroken for everybody. The biggest misconception out there is we went two days without doing anything.”

Todd Hughes admitted telling some clients that their dogs had run away.

“I wasn’t thinking straight, but I should have thought better than that,” Todd Hughes told the Arizona Republic. “Nobody trained me on how to handle this. I made a bad decision. It was terrible.”

“My mom and all these people have been driving around looking for their dogs for two hours to find out the dogs are dead in the shed,” said Doug Hart, who went to the boarding center to pick up his sister’s two dogs.

Valerie Collins and her husband said they weren’t allowed inside the property when they arrived. She said the owner of the business eventually brought the bodies of her dogs, Carson and Daisy, to them.

“Our dogs have been dead for two days,” she said. “They’re rotten.”

The Hughes said they’d been caring for dogs about six years, but only opened up to the public about a year and a half ago.

They returned to the Phoenix area Friday after learning of the deaths, which included one of their own dogs.

According to the sheriff’s department, workers arrived at the facility at 5:30 Friday morning to find a large number of dogs dead or dying. The workers said they’d last checked on the dogs late Thursday night.

“There is going to be a follow-up investigation … It doesn’t end here,” sheriff’s spokesman Chris Hegstrom told AZCentral.com.” Sheriff’s officials called the deaths “a tragic accident.”

“There are a lot of questions that both this Sheriff and the dog’s owners have and believe me by the time we are done with this investigation, we’ll have the answers to most, if not all of the questions,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in a press conference yesterday.

“If a crime occurred, someone will be held accountable,” he said.

Arpaio placed the number of dog deaths at 20, three more than originally thought, but other reports said 21 dogs had died.

Outrage over the death extends beyond the families who lost pets. A Facebook page called “The Tragedy at Green Acre Dog Boarding” is serving as a forum for those seeking answers to what happened.

PetSmart and Petco to pull China-made jerky treats off their shelves — finally

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After thousands of reported illnesses and 1,000 dog deaths, PetSmart and Petco have announced they will stop selling all dog and cat treats made in China.

What took the retailers so long to reach the decision, and why it will take them seven to ten months more to purge store shelves of such items, remain questions worth asking.

So too is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been investigating the treats for years — without determining what about them is making dogs sick — can’t tell us much more than “CAUTION,” with an exclamation point.

PetSmart said it will pull from the shelves all of the China-made treat it sells by March 2015.

Petco said it will accomplish that by the end of this year.

Both retailers have about 1,300 stores nationwide.

The two national pet retailers’ decisions came after seven years of complaints to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about jerky treats from China making pets sick, or worse.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO, in a statement.

A PetSmart spokesperson, meanwhile, told USA Today it has been working toward this goal “for some time, and feel it’s the right thing to do for pets and our customers.”

Taking questionable Chinese-made treats off the shelves strikes us as a pretty simple task, as opposed to “a goal to work toward.” You just pick them up and put them in the garbage. And while “hearing customer concerns” is commendable, it shouldn’t take three or four years for them to sink in.

The move comes as sales of Chinese made jerky treats diminish, amid increasing public concerns about them.

Five years ago, 90% of the pet industry’s jerky treats were made in China, said Lisa Stark, spokeswoman for Petco. Currently, about 50% of the jerky treats sold by Petco are from China.

Since 2007, the FDA says it has received about 4,800 reports of pet illnesses, and 1,000 dog deaths, possibly related to the consumption of jerky treats. The FDA, while issuing warnings, says it has yet to establish any direct link between the pet illnesses and the China-made treats.

Most of the complaints involved chicken jerky, but others included duck, sweet potato and chicken, according to the FDA.