September 18, 2014 / 10:18 PM / 3 years ago

Boarding kennel operators in Arizona sued over 21 dog deaths

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A group of dog owners filed a negligence lawsuit on Thursday against the proprietors of a suburban Phoenix boarding kennel who police said left 21 dogs to die of suffocation and overheating while they took a trip to Florida.

The civil lawsuit accused the owners and caretakers at the kennel, which was billed as a “pleasant and safe place,” of fraud, neglect, mistreatment and abuse of the dogs. It said the owners lied to several people about the death of their pets.

“This was not a doggie Disneyland, this was doggie hell,” said John Schill, one of the attorneys who filed the complaint. “This is all about accountability.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages, alleges that the dogs were confined in cramped quarters and faced “neglect, mistreatment, physical injury and psychological abuse.”

Named in the complaint are Green Acre kennel owners Todd and Maleisia Hughes, and husband-and-wife caretakers Austin and Logan Flake. Austin Flake is the son of U.S. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.

They could not immediately be reached for comment.

The civil complaint came nine days after Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio called for felony animal cruelty charges to be filed against the kennel owners, saying they left the dogs to die while they were in Florida.

Officials at the county attorney’s office will decide whether criminal charges will be filed, and a spokesman for the office said on Thursday there was no timetable for a decision.

The sheriff’s office has said the caretakers told investigators 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 exposed some electrical wires. Part of the wires appeared to have been chewed through.

The lawsuit includes the 21 dogs that died in the incident, and two others that survived. The names of all the dogs were listed in the court filing.

Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jim Loney

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