Twenty Dogs Die in Sweltering Kennel

PHOENIX (CN) – More than 20 pet dogs died in a sweltering, overcrowded Arizona kennel when the operators – including a son of U.S. Senator Jeff Flake – crammed the animals into a 9-by-12-foot room, a dozen families claim in court.
     David Gillette et al. sued Jesse and Maleisa Hughes, Austin and Logan Flake, and Green Acre Cage Free Boarding, on Sept. 18 in Maricopa County Court.
     The kennel is in Gilbert, southeast of Phoenix.
     The Hugheses told plaintiffs their dogs would be kept in a cage-free environment, no more than six to 10 dogs at a time in the kennel, and that they “would be treated like members of defendants Hughes’s family,” according to the complaint.
     The pet-owners claim the Hugheses took them on tours of the kennel, but did not disclose a 9-by-12 room – “the dog room” – in the back of the house. The dog room was “well-sealed and had only one air vent,” the lawsuit states.
     On June 14, the Hugheses left town and tasked the Flakes with taking care of the dogs and the property, according to the complaint.
     On June 19, the Flakes locked more than 20 dogs in the dog room, “resulting in overheating and/or excessive carbon dioxide buildup and/or insufficient oxygen availability,” the complaint states.
     When the Flakes returned the next day, many of the dogs were dead or seriously ill, but the Flakes did not seek treatment for the sick dogs, according to the complaint.
     The lawsuit details the excuses the Hugheses gave plaintiffs to explain the deaths of their dogs.
     According to plaintiff Heather Bennett, Jesse Hughes told her that her two dogs – Valor and Remington – ran away after another dog dug a hole under a fence. Bennett and plaintiff Zachary Wicker say they spent four hours looking for the dogs, only to learn that while her dog Valor had run away, Remington’s “dead body was in a shed at the back of defendant Green Acre the entire time.”
     Hughes told plaintiff Ashley Branch that her dogs, Francis, Snickers, Tonka, and Buick, ran away after another dog chewed through a fence, but the dogs were later found dead at Green Acre, the complaint states.
     Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has recommended felony and misdemeanor charges for animal neglect and cruelty, against the Hugheses and the Flakes, according to Arizona press reports. The Sheriff’s Office found 21 dead dogs when it went to the boarding home on June 21, and later discovered two more had died during that time under Green Acre’s care.
     The plaintiffs demand repayment of boarding fees and punitive damages for racketeering, fraud, and negligence.
     They are represented by Shawn Cunningham, with Harris, Powers & Cunningham, of Phoenix.

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