By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Authorities in Arizona have completed an investigation into the deaths of 21 dogs at a Phoenix-area boarding kennel which overheated, and a local lawman recommended on Tuesday that felony animal cruelty charges be filed against four suspects.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he has no doubt the charges are warranted for the owners and caretakers of the Green Acre boarding facility, where the animals died in June from apparent suffocation and overheating.
"All of those involved in the investigation as well as myself, are confident that felony charges for cruel animal neglect as well as various misdemeanors should be brought against all four suspects in the case," he said in a statement.
The suspects are kennel owners Todd and Maleisia Hughes, and caretakers Austin and Logan Flake, according to Arpaio's statement. Austin Flake in the son of U.S. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. None of the four could immediately be reached for comment.
Deputies said the proprietors of the facility were in Florida at the time, and that several owners of dogs which died at the kennel were initially told their pets had run away.
The county attorney now must decide whether to file charges in the high-profile case. A spokesman for the county attorney's office confirmed it had received the case from the sheriff's office, but said there was no timetable for making a decision.
Authorities have said the caretakers told investigators that they discovered there was a power outage in the room where the dogs were housed when they went to check on the canines. It was unclear how long the power had been off.
A preliminary investigation showed a hole scratched out of the drywall in a boarding area which exposed some electrical wires, a part of which looked like it had been chewed through.
(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)