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Animal cruelty charges to be dropped in Gilbert dead dogs case

PHOENIX — Prosecutors announced Monday they will drop animal abuse charges filed against four people after 21 dogs died at a suburban Phoenix boarding facility.

The four, Todd Hughes, MaLesia Maurine Hughes, Austin Flake, son of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Logan Flake were charged in October. The dogs died in June of heat exhaustion after a dog apparently chewed through a wall and an electrical cord, cutting the air conditioning to the room where they were being kept at Green Acre Dog Boarding.

“After thoroughly reviewing the records and fairly considering the points raised in recent defense motions, the theory of the case as initially presented to the grand jury did not take into account the possibility that there were issues with an air conditioning unit,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a release. “This could impact a grand jury’s charging decision and how we might present a case to a trial jury.”

County sheriff’s investigators said in July that no evidence was found that a
chewed-up electrical wire had cut power to a cooling unit.

All four could still be charged in the case.

The Hugheses still face one felony count of fraudulent schemes and artifices.

The owners of the animals filed a civil suit against the Green Acre Dog Boarding facility in September.

“They really want change,” attorney John Schill told KTAR News’ Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes when the suit was filed. “My clients want change here. They want accountability. They don’t want Green Acre to accept dogs in the future. They don’t want it to operate as a boarding facility.”

Schill said some of the dog owners extensively researched the Green Acre Dog Boarding facility before dropping their pets off there. Some even took a tour, where they were shown a large yard the owners promised was a “Doggy Disneyland.”

However, the dogs were not kept in the yard.

“No one was ever shown this back room the dogs were in,” Schill said, adding neighbors said they never heard dogs playing or barking.

MaLeisa Hughes, the owner of the dog boarding home, spoke with Mac & Gaydos in late June to give her side of the story. She said she was on a family vacation in Florida and left her daughter and son-in-law in charge. Then she received a phone call.

“It’s something I don’t ever want to hear again, they [Hughes’ daughter and son-in-law] were screaming and crying,” said Hughes. “They saw dogs already passed away or dogs struggling and the room was about 100 degrees.”

Hughes said the facility’s only mistake was telling owners their dogs ran away.

“[My husband] told a few people that their dogs had run away and his intention was that he would call them back and spend the time he needed [to explain the situation],” Hughes said. “That’s the one mistake we’ve made.”

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