GILBERT, AZ - More than a dozen dogs have died at a boarding facility in Gilbert.
The dogs were being housed at the Green Acre pet boarding business near Val Vista and Queen Creek roads.
According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, sometime between late Thursday night and early Friday morning one of the dogs chewed through drywall and an electrical cord, taking out power to the area where the dogs were housed, cutting off the air conditioning.
Todd and MaLeisa Hughes run the business.
The dogs were in a “mess room” overnight when the power was cut off to the room, Todd said.
He wouldn’t provide the dimensions of the room to ABC 15, or show a reporter where the dog reportedly chewed through the drywall.
The family “couldn’t have avoided this,” Todd said, calling the incident a “freak accident.”
Todd and MaLeisa were out of town and the facility was being watched by a daughter and son-in-law, according to MCSO spokesman Chris Hegstrom.
When the pair checked on the dogs they noticed the dogs were “struggling” and took them out to the back of the house to hose them off.
They were unsuccessful and 17 of the dogs died.
Hegstrom said the owners flew back home Friday night and began notifying the pets’ owners Saturday morning.
Heather Bennett told ABC15 her dog was among the dead. She said her husband is about to be deployed.
"These dogs were supposed to be my protectors while he was gone, they were supposed to protect me and my daughter, if anything," Bennett said.
Bennett said the owner first told her the dogs were missing. But her husband found one dog dead in the shed, the other, they said, is actually missing.
Todd admitted that he initially told some pet owners that the dogs had escaped.
In fact, the dogs were dead and their bodies were being held in a shed on the property.
Todd now says misleading the owners was a “bad decision.”
Bennett thinks the owners should face charges.
"It was an act of negligence, completely. You ask anybody here, it's negligence," Bennett said.
The owners say they were not negligent and reiterated their belief that the incident was an accident.
Hegstrom, the MCSO spokesman, said deputies are investigating whether any charges will be filed.
What actually killed the dogs is also under investigation, Hegstrom said.
MCSO says it appears the deaths were a "tragic accident."