- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Two caretakers who had been charged in the deaths of 21 dogs at a suburban Phoenix kennel filed an $8 million claim Thursday against Maricopa County and some of its officials.

Lawyers for Austin and Logan Flake said they are seeking $4 million apiece for harm to their reputation and punitive damages.

Austin Flake is the son of U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

A claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. There was no immediate comment Thursday night from county officials, the county attorney’s office or the sheriff’s office - all named in the claim.

County prosecutors announced in December that animal cruelty charges against the Flakes and the owners of the Green Acre Dog Boarding facility in Gilbert were being dismissed but could be refiled at some point.

The case as presented to a grand jury didn’t take into account the potential for problems with an air conditioning unit, prosecutors said.

The Flakes said they found the dogs passed out in an 8-by-12-foot room on June 20. The couple reported trying to save the animals by hosing and icing them down, but authorities said they didn’t call for emergency assistance before the dogs died.

Green Acre Dog Boarding owners Jesse and Malesia Hughes have said the animals died of heat exhaustion because one dog chewed through the air conditioner’s power cord after their daughter, Logan Flake, and her husband left the facility for the night.

The Flakes were looking after the dogs while the Hugheses were on vacation in Florida, according to court records.

Sheriff’s investigators said no evidence was found that a chewed-up electrical wire had cut power to a cooling unit, and a veterinarian said some of the dogs likely suffocated. The findings were forwarded to the county attorney’s office for prosecution.

Dennis Wilenchik, an attorney representing the Flakes, argued that the air conditioning unit stopped working because of a clogged air filter. He has asked that the case be presented to another grand jury for reconsideration.

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