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21 dogs die at suburban Phoenix pet-care boarding

PHOENIX — Nearly two dozen dogs died at a Gilbert dog boarder over the weekend of apparent heat exhaustion.

Authorities said the air conditioning went out after one of the dogs managed to chew through the wall and then an electrical cord.

The actual time of the destruction, however, is currently under investigation.

The facility was temporarily overseen by a son of Sen. Jeff Flake. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said the owners of Green Acre Cage Free Dog Boarding were out of town and said they had arranged for the dogs to be taken care of by Austin Flake and his wife, the owners’ daughter.

Owners Todd and Maleisa Hughes were notified and returned to town. They called the deaths at their site, near Val Vista and Queen Creek roads, a freak accident.

“The only way this could have been predicted truly is if I could foresee the future because nobody could have prevented this,” Hughes told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos Monday.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference regarding the canine deaths Monday afternoon to express his concern.

“One thing that puzzles me that we’re going to really look at is the timeline,” Arpaio said. “How can you be healthy at 11 o’clock [at night] and dead at 5:30 [in the morning]?”

Arpaio, known for having a soft spot for pets and establishing a no-kill animal center at the county jail, said his office is taking the investigation very seriously.

“We’re going to check phone records, we’re going to check air condition(ing) meters, so there’s a lot of work that my office will do to get to the bottom of this investigation,” he added.

As for the potential involvement of Austin Flake, Arpaio said he would give no special treatment.

“This sheriff arrests anybody that violates animal cruelty, no matter what their profession is,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who it is.”

Sen. Flake’s office released a statement, neither confirming nor denying his son’s involvement:

“I learned of this tragic accident over the weekend. I can’t imagine the devastating loss these families are experiencing. My heart goes out to the owners who lost their beloved pets.”

The review site Yelp lists a website for the business, but that site has been taken down.