PHOENIX — Animal cruelty charges were reinstated Wednesday against the owners of a Phoenix-area animal boarding facility where 21 dogs perished inside of a locked room last year.
Charges originally filed against owners Jesse and Maleisa Hughes were dropped in late December.
“The dismissal of the original charges provided us with a critical window of opportunity to review additional information that called into question the initial theory of the case,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a release.
The Hugheses now face 28 charges of animal cruelty and one charge of fraud.
Authorities said the air conditioning unit in the room went out after one of the dogs managed to chew through the wall and then an electrical cord. The dogs were in the temporary care of Austin Flake, son of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and his wife, Logan, while the Hugheses were out of town.
“We have evidence that suggests that there were efforts to provide particular care, and the caretakers (the Flakes) were given specific direction on what to do,” Montgomery said at a press conference. “What they were directed to do fell far short of what the business owners held themselves out as what should be provided, and what should have been done.”
County Sheriff’s investigators said in July no evidence was found that a chewed-up electrical wire had cut power to the cooling unit.
The Hughses originally told their customers the dogs had run away. Maleisa told KTAR News’ Mac & Gaydos that was the “one mistake we’ve made” and later called the deaths a “freak accident.”
The dog owners filed a civil suit against the facility in September. They claimed they were promised a “Doggy Disneyland” during a tour and were shown a large yard where the dogs would be kept, not the room the dogs died in.
“No one was ever shown this back room the dogs were in,” attorney for the dog owners John Schill told KTAR News’ Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes.
KTAR’s Bob McClay contributed to this report.
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