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…”