New indictment charges owners of kennel where 21 dogs died

AP News
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Posted: May 06, 2015 8:10 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — A new indictment announced Wednesday reinstates animal cruelty charges against the owners of a suburban Phoenix kennel where 21 dogs died of heat exhaustion and four others were injured in June.

Prosecutors in January dismissed animal cruelty charges against Green Acre Dog Boarding owners Jesse Todd Hughes, 32, and Maleisa Maurine Hughes, 45, of Gilbert.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said at the time that the case presented to a grand jury didn't take into account the potential for problems with an air conditioning unit for the room where the dogs were kept overnight.

A subsequent review indicated there is enough evidence to support the charges, Montgomery said Wednesday as he announced the latest 29-count indictment.

As in the original indictment, the Hugheses also face a fraud charge accusing them of making false promises to the dogs' owners.

The Hugheses face a June 3 arraignment on the new indictment.

"Just as before, there is no evidence of criminal conduct," said Robert Jarvis, a lawyer for the Hugheses. "It was a tragic and freak accident. The evidence has not changed. There was a lack of evidentiary support for the charges before, and there remains a lack of evidence now."

Unlike the initial indictment, the new one does not charge the couple's daughter and son-in-law, who were caring for the dogs while the Hugheses were on vacation.

As the business's owners, the Hugheses directed the caretakers on what to do and were chiefly responsible for the conditions in which the dogs were kept, Montgomery said.

The son-in-law, Austin Flake, is a son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., but Montgomery said Austin Flake's family ties had no bearing on whether he and his wife would be charged.

An initial theory in the dogs' deaths was that the room's air conditioning failed because a dog chewed through a wire. However, further investigation indicated the air conditioning unit itself had failed, authorities said.

Absent that failure and the large number of dogs placed in the room, "I don't know if we'd be here today," Montgomery said.

The animal cruelty charges include felonies and misdemeanors. Some accuse the Hugheses of subjecting the dogs to "cruel neglect or abandonment that resulted in a serious physical injury." Other say the couple failed to provide necessary medical attention.