- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Monday that his office is planning an “immediate and thorough investigation” into the deaths of 20 dogs at a pet boarding facility in Gilbert.

The dogs died over the weekend of apparent heat exhaustion.

Authorities said the air conditioning at the Green Acres Dog Boarding Facility went out after one of the dogs chewed through a wall and then an electrical cord.

“But it seems unreasonable that dogs could be healthy at 11 at night and dead by 5:30 the next morning as the owners suggest,” Arpaio said at a news conference. “Even the veterinarian I met with agrees that the timeline given by the owners and caretakers is highly suspect.”

Arpaio said his deputies found the 20 dead dogs piled into a shed on the property.

Some pet owners said they already have contacted lawyers to pursue a possible civil case against the kennel’s operators, who were vacationing out of state when the dogs died.

Sheriff’s officials said the boarding facility’s owners arranged for the dogs to be taken care of by their daughter and their son-in-law.

The son-in-law, Austin Flake, is the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. The senator issued a statement calling it a “tragic accident” but didn’t confirm or deny his son’s involvement.

Sheriff’s officials said the Flakes discovered the dogs Friday morning and the couple tried to save what animals they could by hosing and icing them down, but they failed to call for emergency assistance before the dogs died.

“If a crime occurred, someone will be held accountable,” Arpaio said.

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