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Furious pet owners demand necropsies on dogs

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Parker and Sherman belong to the Gillette family and are two of the dogs that died in a Gilbert boarding facility last week. (Source: Shannon Gillette) Parker and Sherman belong to the Gillette family and are two of the dogs that died in a Gilbert boarding facility last week. (Source: Shannon Gillette)
MCSO detectives said they believe dogs chewed through wires, which disconnected the air conditioning unit. MCSO detectives said they believe dogs chewed through wires, which disconnected the air conditioning unit.
MCSO Deputies carry a wheelbarrow of dead dogs outside the Hughes home. (Source: CBS 5 News) MCSO Deputies carry a wheelbarrow of dead dogs outside the Hughes home. (Source: CBS 5 News)
GILBERT, AZ (CBS5) -

Pet owners handed over family members, expecting their dogs to be in good hands at the Green Acre boarding home in Gilbert managed by Todd and MaLeisa Hughes.

On Friday, pet owners received a call from the Hughes family explaining their dogs had run away. Many of those pet owners were on vacation at the time and desperately called family members to help.

Valerie Collins was one of the first to find out the dogs weren't missing. The animals were dead.

"[Owners were] hoping maybe that their dog had run away only to have to identify a dead dog in a pile of corpses of labs and St. Bernards and goldens and Bernese mountain dogs just piled like meat, rotting," Collins said.

Collins called the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the agency now investigating the deaths of 20 dogs from possible heat exhaustion at Green Acre.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Brandon Jones said the incident is currently viewed as a "tragic accident." Jones said detectives believe dogs chewed through wires, which disconnected the air conditioning unit inside the home, and the dogs died in a hot room overnight.

"Detectives are investigating every aspect of this incident to determine if any crimes were committed," Jones said.

Although no criminal charges have been filed, some pet owners have already contacted legal counsel to pursue a civil case against the Hughes family.

One family remained on vacation in Southern California. Shannon Gillette called CBS 5 News from Disneyland, where she was trying to celebrate her son's birthday.

"We're trying to tell [the children] we're never going to see [the dogs] again. They don't understand." Gillette said. "They said, 'We can just go pick them up from the hospital,' and we can't because they're dead and they were killed."

Gillette, like many other families, don't believe this was a tragic accident. Instead, they're convinced what happened at Green Acre over Thursday night was an act of neglect.

Collins said the lies these families were told, the conflicting stories, nothing is adding up.

"To know it was such a brutal death, it's not right," Collins said. "So many lies were told, and we just want the truth to come out."

A sheriff's deputy visited the Hughes' family home in Gilbert on Sunday evening, but the deputy declined to tell CBS 5 News the purpose of his visit. No arrest was made, and no one was taken into custody.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office expected to have more information Monday regarding the deaths of the dogs. More dogs remain missing.

A Facebook page called The Tragedy at Green Acre Dog Boarding has been set up with pictures of the family pets and stories from the families who lost their dogs.

For more on this story and other stories around Arizona from this author, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook and Twitter.

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