Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Switching gears and heading down to the local level and a story I almost guarantee you won't find on any other left blog of any kind.  You may think this story does not belong here, but if you know me at all you know how much I love dogs...and well, it is my blog.  Please don't start screaming about how can I write about dogs when people all over the world are dying, too.  If you can't figure out that it is possible to care about more than one thing, well, then, what can I say?

In Gilbert Arizona last month twenty-three dogs died at a boarding facility in town.  Owners of the dogs said they were first told their dogs had run off.  They were then told another story... and another.

Austin Flake, U.S. Senator Jeff Flake's son, was taking care of the dogs with his wife when the incident happened.

There were warning signs that no one had been told about.  In the weeks before the dog tragedy struck, another women took her dog to the facility while she left on vacation.  When she returned her son said the dogs leg "was swollen...two to three times [the size] his leg is actually supposed to be.”  In addition to the cut and swollen paw, the dog was covered in paint and had fur missing all over his body.  His family rushed him to the vet.

“The vet said someone had either been tearing at his fur or it could have possibly been some chemical burns if they were trying to get the paint off of him. He also had a temperature of 106 degrees,” said Gabby Ugartte.

According to the American Kennel Club, normal body temperature for a dog ranges between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The owners of the facility where the 23 dogs died say some dog chewed through a wire and knocked out the air conditioning causing the dogs to die.  They said they panicked and lied to owners about what happened.

Necropsies show no signs of electrocution and point to suffocation as a more likely sign of death.

Azfamily.com reports on a series of 911 calls related to the deaths of the dogs.

Calls to 911 detail the first moments when pet owners found out their dogs had died at Green Acre Dog Boarding.

Caller 1: I need somebody sent out here to this address. This man just murdered my two dogs.

An understandably angry accusation is how the first 911 call started, as the dispatcher probed for information to begin understanding the scope of the tragedy.

911 dispatcher: You had two dogs there?

Caller 1: Yeah, they're both dead as doornails.

911 dispatcher: Oh my goodness.

There are times when the caller can be heard arguing with someone working at Green Acre.

Caller 1: Get away from those dogs; don't touch the other one. The cops are coming. Don't touch the other dogs. … I'm calling the cops. You’re, you're in trouble. I don't think you understand this, you idiot. How could you do this? All you had to do is watch a dog. You killed multiple dogs.

Others called 911, some confused because Green Acre had originally told them their dogs had escaped. Owners later called police after finding out those dogs were actually dead.
911 dispatcher: OK, (was) there anything wrong with your dogs?

Caller 2: Yeah, they're dead.

LiveLeak reports:

When sheriff’s officers arrived at the property on the Saturday the dogs were discovered dead, they found a mound of dog bodies piled up in a shed. Temperatures in the Gilbert area that Friday and Saturday reached of 106 and 104 degrees respectively.

The Sheriffs office reports the room where the dogs were kept measured about 9 feet by 12 feet.  It had three doors and one of them was sealed shut with caulk so the smell of the dogs wouldn't  travel to other rooms.

Gillette said. 

None of the dog owners were ever told about this secret room… shown the room… we were told that out dogs would hang out with the family and they would play fetch in the yard.

"It just makes us sick to think our dogs were there for a couple of weeks and our dogs were just locked up," Shannon Gillette told KSAZ.

 David Gillette, who lost two dogs at Green Acre, commented at a vigil attended by more than 300 persons for the dogs.

A wrong has been done.  Our focus from this point forward is to uncover answers to the questions that we have and make sure we put things in place so that if this happens again, people will be held accountable immediately.

A few weeks later, Sheriff Joe Arpaio (yes, the Joe Arpaio) was back at the facility investigating again.  This time after a neighbor reported seeing two rabbits die in the heat. "Let's look at it as a complete picture now," said Sheriff Joe Arpaio. "Here we are back here again and this is a violation of the law, rabbits too, same thing...my patience is running out."

The rabbits belonged to the facility's owners  Todd and MaLeisa Hughes.

Attorney John Schill, who represents some of those whose pet friends died said, 

It's important to show the way the Hugheses operate. They don't care about rabbits. They don't care about dogs. They don't care about animals.

Jacqueline Heath is hoping for change after her three dogs died at the kennel.
We already now that our dogs were neglected. Obviously, they don't care for their own animals.  I hope eventually there are changes in the law, and I hope the Hugheses are never entrusted with another animal.

The truth is facilities that board our beloved animals are  being checked mainly only by you and me. There are groups — such as the American Kennel Club and the International Boarding and Pet Services Association (IBPSA) — that set guidelines for doggy day care facilities, but those rules aren’t backed by law.  In fact, the entire canine industry is unregulated, except for veterinarians. Trainers, boarding facilities, dog walkers, pet sitters and dog daycares are all self-regulated and self scrutinized. Outside of following proper business protocols, the "business" of dog caregiving is more often then not monitored by no one. 

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioral rehabilitation comments:

If someone wishes to start up a dog training or dog walking business with the intention of making money (good luck!) then the service that is provided tends to be compromised. Quality of care and service takes a backseat to the bottom line....When seeking a canine caregiver, demand proof of experience and qualifications. Remember that someone who is truly serious about caring for your dog will have taken the time to educate themselves on being able to provide the best service for you. They will also be proud to show you their experience to ease your worries....Experience is a tricky thing too. There may be a young, keen individual wanting to begin an entrepreneurial career in the canine industry. They may have certifications and qualifications and eagerness, but lack hands-on experience. This may result in inattentiveness due to lack of experience...Then there may be someone who has been in the business for years. They are highly experienced, have the qualifications and certifications, but lack the eagerness due to simply being burned out. This may also show up as a lack of concern or inattentiveness.

Back in Arizona,  state Reps. Kate Brophy McGee and Brenda Barton have assembled a group of stakeholders including the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and area business owners to begin researching potential legislation aimed at setting minimum safety standards at pet boarding facilities.

Carmen Rustenbeck is the CEO of the International Boarding and Pet Services Association. Like all good represents of Capital, Rustenbeck said she’d rather approach animal safety with consumer education and industry self-regulation.

Meanwhile, the pet owners whose dogs died in Gilbert are still looking for accountability. The dogs were in the care of Austin Flake, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake's son. 

This group decided to take up the issue with the senator on Tuesday

The following is from  KTVK/KASW 

Dog deaths: 'Gilbert 23' protesters not impressed with Sen. Flake

by Catherine Holland
Video report by Jill Galus with Dennis Welch
Posted on August 5, 2014 at 9:39 AM
Updated today at 2:02 PM
GILBERT, Ariz. -- When Sen. Jeff Flake was honored with an award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce award Tuesday morning, some of the people who attended the event were there to applaud him.
Several protesters gathered outside the Val Vista Lakes Clubhouse during the Spirit of Enterprise Breakfast with Jeff Flake as part of a peaceful demonstration to raise awareness about the deaths of 23 dogs at a Gilbert boarding facility earlier this summer.
The boarding facility, Green Acre, belongs to the family of Flake's son's wife. The owners who lost dogs say Austin Flake and his wife were caring for the dogs when they died on June 20.
The owners of Green Acre originally said the dogs died of heat exhaustion after one of them chewed through a power cord, killing the air conditioning.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office served two separate search warrants at the property. They did not find any evidence to support the owners' explanation.
A veterinarian who performed necropsies on some of the dogs said it appears that they suffocated to death.
The protesters had two main goals Tuesday morning.
"We'd like to see some sort of reaction," Veronica Barbieri, one of the protesters, told 3TV's Jill Galus. "He has not issued a statement yet about it."
They not only want somebody to be held accountable, they also want laws created to hold animal boarding facilities to specific standards.
When Flake left the event, he spoke briefly with the protesters. They were not impressed.
"The truth of the matter is Sen. Flake has an abysmal record on humane legislation," one woman told 3TV's Jill Galus. "I don't believe he was sincere. I don't believe his remarks were sincere. I believe his son is following in his father's footsteps. I have not changed my opinion of Sen. Flake."
3TV political editor Dennis Welch was at the breakfast and tried to broach the topic of Green Acre with Flake.
"It was nice that he did at least acknowledge us. I'll give him credit for that," Linda Buchanan said. "To me, it was like good PR for him, makes him look like he's concerned."
"This is not something he wants to talk about," Welch said. Flake's response to most of the questions about Green Acre and his son's involvement in what happened there? "No comment."
"He did seem to be open to the idea of potentially supporting more regulation for these types of kennels," Welch continued, pointing out that this is the second time one of Flake's sons has been caught in the center of controversy in the past year.
The investigation into Green Acre is ongoing, but at this point, no charges have been filed in connection with the dogs' deaths.

"This is not something that the senator really wants to talk about," Welch said. "That was obvious very obvious today with the way he was reacting to us in the media."
The owners of the dogs who died at Green Acre, now known as the Gilbert 23, have come together to honor their lost pets by saving others.
"The owners of the Gilbert 23 would like to turn this tragic event into something positive and help leave a legacy for their dogs that died," reads the group's GoFundMe.com page.
To that end, they created the Gilbert 23 Rescue Mission, the goal of which is to rescue dogs that are at risk of being euthanized at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control's two shelters on Aug. 23. The group is hosting afundraising event this weekend.

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