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Maricopa County attorney unsure of whether prosecution is in order for Green Acre owners

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery says it’s too early to tell if the owners of Green Acre Dog Boarding in Gilbert will face any charges. He’ll wait instead for the results of a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigation before deciding whether to prosecute.

“I want to wait until the investigation is complete and I get a chance to see everything,” Montgomery said.

Twenty dogs were found dead at the facility on Saturday. Green Acre owners Todd and Maleisa Hughes claim the dogs died of heat exhaustion after one of them chewed threw wires and cut the electricity, leaving the small shed the dogs were in without air conditioning.

Part of the investigation involves the son of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. The Sheriff’s Office said that Austin Flake and his wife Logan were left in charge of the facility while the Hughes’ were out of town. Montgomery said that if he does decide to go forward with the case, Austin won’t get any preferential treatment.

“I don’t care who you are, there is no surname defense in Arizona statutes,” he said.

Montgomery said that a saying that he learned a long time ago reminds him to treat everyone the same, regardless of their status in life.

“An officer on duty knows no one — to be partial is to dishonor both himself and his ill-advised favor,” said Montgomery. “That was something that I was taught as an 18-year-old cadet at West Point, and it’s been part of my life ever since.”

The Arizona Animal Welfare league says the tragedy is proof that lawmakers should review regulations regarding animal boarding businesses. Montgomery said he needs to have several questions about this case answered before deciding whether he agrees.

One factor is that the incident happened on county land.

“Because it’s a county island, it falls under county zoning and ordinance authority,” Montgomery said. “There are some aspects of this that are both business licensing and regulation focused, and/or criminal penalty focused, and maybe both. So I want to wait and see exactly what the circumstances are before trying to come up with possible solutions.”

He said that if changes are needed, he’s willing to work with the state legislature to get them done.

Montgomery said that his heart goes out to the dog owners who lost their pets.

“My wife and I board our dog from time to time, though not at this facility. I’m aware of some of the concerns and obvious distress that some of the owners are in the middle of right now,” he said.