New indictment reinstates animal cruelty charges against owners of kennel where 21 dogs died

PHOENIX – 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 indicates 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. Defence attorney Robert Jarvis did not immediately respond to requests by The Associated Press for comment on their behalf.

However, Jarvis told reporters after a brief hearing in the case Wednesday that the new indictment was disappointing.

He said his clients did nothing criminal. “There was no valid basis initially, and there’s no valid basis now,” Jarvis said.

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 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 what caused the dogs’ death 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 being placed in the room, “I don’t know if we’d be here today,” Montgomery said.

The animal cruelty charges include felonies and misdemeanours. 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.