They had names like Snickers and Zoey, Maci and Buick. They were golden retrievers, beagles, Shih Tzus — dogs coddled by owners reluctant to leave them with strangers.
Those worries were eased, though, after driving down that pocked dirt road to Green Acre Dog Boarding, finding a homey atmosphere and wide-open lawn.
The family that owned the business, operated out of their home, told them the dogs would spend their days running free, their nights cuddled in beds inside. Only a few animals would stay at a time, the dog owners say they were told.
But one day in June, sheriff’s investigators arrived at the home to find dozens of dogs, most of them dead. Some had been wrapped in blankets and left in front of the house. More than a dozen others had been piled in a tool shed.
The dogs, investigators found, had been crammed in a poorly ventilated 9-by-12-foot room for hours on end, left panting and thirsty as temperatures climbed in the sweltering Arizona summer. They slowly died of heat exhaustion and suffocation.
Since then, the stunning allegations of neglect — with a son of a United States senator as one of the accused, and a notoriously get-tough lawman with a soft spot for animals leading the investigation — have gripped Gilbert, a town about 20 miles southeast of Phoenix, and the entire area for months.
“You had the victims, who were very angry — they didn’t let this stop,” said the sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, whose reputation extends far beyond his jurisdiction. “They showed how concerned and angry they were losing their pets, and how it was done in that small room. That made it a little different.”
And that difference helped put Sheriff Arpaio, better known for issuing news releases about the “federal government release of criminal aliens onto American streets,” in the sensitive position of investigating Austin Flake, the 21-year-old son of the Republican Senator Jeff Flake.
The junior Mr. Flake and his wife, Logan, 21, were caring for the dogs while Logan’s mother and stepfather — MaLeisa Hughes, 45, and Jesse Todd Hughes, 32, the owners of Green Acre Dog Boarding — traveled to Florida in June. During that trip, 22 of the 28 dogs that were held in the 9-by-12 room died, some with no food in their stomachs.
Source: New York Times