Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said deputies seized records and computers from a dog boarding facility in Gilbert on Wednesday. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Forensic experts check the air conditioning system at a home in Gilbert where 20 dogs died last week. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Several MCSO vehicles converged on Green Acres Dog Boarding in Gilbert to serve a search warrant. (Source: CBS 5 News)
GILBERT, AZ (CBS5) -
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies on Wednesday served a search warrant at the Gilbert pet boarding facility where 22 dogs died last month.
"We're looking at every angle," Arpaio said during a news conference on the property of Green Acres Dog Boarding. "We are seizing records, computers and we still have subpoenas out for phone records. We still have a lot of work to do after we finish here."
Arpaio said 12 detectives along with two forensic experts seized evidence they believe may help determine how the dogs died at Green Acre Cage Free Dog Boarding between June 19 and June 20.
The owners of the boarding kennel, MaLeisa and Todd Hughes, claimed the dogs died of heat exposure after a dog chewed through an air conditioner power cord where they were boarded after the caretakers left for the night.
Arpaio said 20 of the 28 dogs in the 9-by-12-foot room died and their bodies were found in a nearby shed on June 21. Deputies were still trying to determine if another dog died before that date. And another dog was found dead a week later after being hit by a car.
The carcass of another dog was found buried in the backyard of the property on Wednesday, Arpaio said. No other animal carcasses were found on the property.
Arpaio said deputies seized computers, cell phones, ledgers and business documents as well as wiring and drywall.
He said one of the experts hired by his office is checking to see whether there was sufficient air flow from the only vent in the room even when the air conditioning was working, and to determine whether the dogs suffocated.
An electrician was also hired to determine whether the Hughes' story was legitimate.
Arpaio said the warrant was delayed while deputies talked to the owners and attempted to contact Austin Flake and his wife, Logan, who were taking care of the dogs for six days while the Hughes were out of town.
Deputies had to travel to Provo, UT, where Flake attends school, but he refused to talk to deputies and referred them to his attorney. Arpaio said deputies tried to reach Flake by phone, but received no response.
Flake is the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Logan is a daughter of the Hughes.
"We had to make sure we had enough probable cause," Arpaio said about the delay. "You can see we had enough information for a search warrant."
He said there was no timetable for determining whether criminal offenses occurred or if the deaths were accidental.
Arpaio said fluids from seven of the dead dogs were sent to the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan for analysis.
He's defending the resources devoted to the case.
"If you want to say it's overkill, it's not overkill," Arpaio said. "It isn't unusual for this sheriff to put these kinds of resources into this case. We do this all the time (for) animal cruelty."
The Hughes had been cooperative and pleasant until Wednesday, when deputies showed up with warrants and MaLeisa Hughes became annoyed, Arpaio said.
Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News as this story develops.
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