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Phoenix-area pet boarders plead not guilty in dog deaths

PHOENIX — The owners of a suburban Phoenix dog care facility, where nearly two dozen pets died, pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty charges Wednesday.

Todd and MaLeisa Hughes owned Green Acre Dog Boarding in Gilbert, where 23 dogs died while in their care in June. The couple said the dogs had died of heat exhaustion, after one of the animals bit through the power cord of the air conditioner.

An investigation in July by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said there was no evidence that a chewed-up electrical wire had cut power to a cooling unit.

Two others, Austin Flake and his wife Logan, were also charged with felony counts of animal cruelty. The Flakes were responsible for the animals while the Hughes were out of town for the weekend. The four were indicted two weeks ago.

Shannon Gillette, whose two dogs died at the facility, was outside the courtroom before Wednesday’s proceedings.

“I try not not hold a lot of anger … (but) we miss our dogs so much. And they died in such a horrible way, we just want to see justice and the people that are responsible for our dogs’ death held accountable,” she said.