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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
3TV political editor Dennis Welch was at the breakfast and tried to broach the topic of Green Acre with Flake.
The investigation into Green Acre is ongoing, but at this point, no charges have been filed in connection with the dogs' deaths.