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Owners of Gilbert kennel where dogs died sentenced to 60 days in jail

Maleisa and Jesse Hughes

PHOENIX — The owners of a Gilbert kennel where 23 dogs died of heat exhaustion were sentenced to 60 days in jail on Friday.

Jesse and Malesia Hughes each had agreed to serve a 23-day sentence when they pleaded guilty in June to animal cruelty and facilitation to commit fraudulent schemes.

Some of the owners of the dogs that died at the kennel two years ago urged the judge to impose a stiffer sentence than punishment called for in a plea deal taken by the boarding facility’s operators.

The couple was also sentenced to six years of supervised probation.

Jesse Hughes will begin serving his sentence Friday. Malesia Hughes will begin serving hers on Jan. 2.

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 Hughes 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,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said at a press conference last year. “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 last year 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.

Charges against the Flakes were dropped last year.

KTAR’s Bob McClay and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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