A few months ago, it looked as though the owners of Green Acre Dog Boarding would go completely unpunished for the deaths of over 20 dogs in their care. Despite public outrage, the prosecutor in Gilbert, Arizona, dropped all charges against owners Jesse Todd Hughes, Malesia Hughes, their daughter, Logan Flake, and son-in-law, Austin Flake in December. It seemed that no matter how much the owners of the dogs grieved, the case was over.
Now it looks like the Hughes couple, at least, may have to face the law after all. Yesterday, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Thompson announced that he was reinstating charges against Jesse and Malesia Hughes. The couple are now facing 28 charges of animal cruelty and one charge of fraud.
According to Thompson, the intervening months gave his office a chance to scrutinize the case more carefully. “We have evidence that suggests that there were efforts to provide particular care, and [Logan and Austin Flake] were given specific direction on what to do,” Montgomery said at a press conference. “What they were directed to do fell far short of what the business owners held themselves out as what should be provided, and what should have been done.”
The dogs died while they were being overseen by Logan and Austin Flake last June. The Flakes put over 20 dogs into a windowless 8-by-12-foot room overnight, sealing the door with tape, allegedly to contain the smell. Most of the dogs died of heat exhaustion or suffocation overnight. Although the deaths happened between Thursday night and Friday morning, the owners said that they weren’t contacted until Saturday. One woman said at the time that she was told that her two dogs had escaped by digging a hole under the fence.
While the owners of the dogs and their supporters have said that they’re happy to hear that the charges are being reinstated, many are also questioning why the Flakes aren’t being charged as well.
John Schill, the attorney who represents the pet owners, told AZ Central that the Flakes definitely should be facing charges: “They were the ones on the scene. They did nothing. They should have known what to do.”
Throughout the case, the question of Austin Flake’s family has loomed over all legal actions — or the lack thereof. His father is Jeff Flake, the junior senator from Arizona. There have been no signs that Senator Flake has directly exercised any influence over the case, but when it took four months for the original charges to be filed and they were then dropped, many supporters of the dog owners expressed suspicions. However, the original charges did get Austin Flake expelled from Brigham Young University. Based partly on his expulsion from school, Austin and Logan Flake filed an $8 million lawsuit against Maricopa County for “indescribable mental anguish and distress, and irreparable injury to their good names and reputations and future prospects” resulting from the charges.
Whether the current charges will stick this time around remains to be seen. In any case, we hope that the owners of the dead dogs will see the day when they can say that they’ve gotten justice.
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