By now, I would imagine nearly anyone with media access has heard about our local tragedy in Gilbert, Arizona - where 21 dogs perished while under the responsibility and care of Green Acre Boarding Facility. That number of confirmed dead is taken from the Facebook page set up in their honor and with the blessing of many of the families that lost dogs. Any and every dog-lover in this state that watched with a broken heart as images of dead dogs being taken away from the Gilbert home were broadcast over our local news, felt the pain of those families. To add to that grief, the details of what appear to have occurred are disturbing, confusing, and unbelievable - possibly more than a dozen dogs crammed together in a small room, bodies then piled like trash, kennel owner Todd Hughes leaving outright lies on dog owners' voicemails about dogs running away. These details are all well-covered in the media, and I won't rehash all of them here; every new detail seems to bring more questions than answers, and until the investigation is complete, we won't know exactly what happened.
What I will say is this: If all of that wasn't bad enough, if the loss of life wasn't gut-wrenching enough, watching the raw footage of one of the kennel's owners, MaLeisa Hughes, confronting the press, toting a foster child on her hip, shaking her finger at the media, in an absolutely shameful display of self-serving vitriol - when one would expect sadness, remorse, humbleness, and shock, will appall you. She does everything she possibly can to point that finger away from herself and the caretakers that were present when the dogs died, instead of owning up to the one fact that everyone is aware of, except for her, apparently: she was responsible for the livelihood of those dogs the minute they were left at her home.
Period. End of story. No excuses. It was her responsibility, and the responsibility of all the caretakers at Green Acre, to ensure the safety of those animals. She failed. They failed. Miserably. However it happened - tragic accident or criminal neglect - the fact remains, the dogs died under her watch. But is she remorseful? Hardly. Except for some very short moments in her video tirade, specifically where she mourns the loss of her dog, Patrick (still unverified by media outlets), she shows an astonishing lack of concern or sympathy for the dogs that perished under her facility's care. Interestingly enough, MaLeisa and Todd Hughes were not even on the premises when the dogs died. They were frolicking in Florida, on vacation, and left the care of the dogs to their 21 year-old daughter and son-in-law - Logan and Austin Flake.
These people - the Hugheses and the Flakes - who were entrusted with the lives of these family pets, never once tried to contact emergency services after the dogs were discovered by the Flakes, a detail that has many authorities scratching their heads, and dog owners understandably screaming foul. Not one phone call to an emergency vet, not one phone call to the police or fire department, or any emergency services. Nothing. Silence. Instead, the first phone calls were made to families from Todd Hughes, most of them indicating the dogs escaped, and that they were looking for them. Lies. Not only did they not ensure the dogs' safety, they had the audacity to lie the families afterward, and MaLeisa Hughes has the audacity to defend those lies.
As the investigation into this matter unfolds, and more details emerge, nothing changes the fact that these people did not take their care of those dogs seriously. Do you know how I know? MaLeisa Hughes tells us in her own words.
"It could have burned down our whole house," Hughes said. "My whole house could have burned down and all my children could have died, and then it would have been a tragedy." No, MaLeisa, it already is a tragedy. It's a tragedy to each and every family that lost a dog in your home. Just because no harm came to your family, does not mean it was not a tragedy.
The fact that she doesn't truly see the loss of canine life as being on par with the lives of her own family, is very telling. She was happy to make money off the boarding of family pets, but does not see the true value in their lives. It's really no wonder then, that they were shamefully crammed together for the night, in a 10 x 10 room, without care for size, demeanor, or health issues. One of the dogs, Parker Gillette, was blind. He died along with his brother, Sherman. One can only imagine the distress of all of those dogs, but perhaps even more heartbreaking, the confusion and panic of a dog that is unable to see.
I would hope that image would haunt MaLeisa Hughes for the rest of her life, but somehow, I doubt it. Once you watch this video of her confronting the media, you will too.
Rest in peace, Green Acre 21: Remy, Parker, Sherman, Koda, Happy, Rosie, Cloe, Ellie, Zed, Sonny, Roxy, Tonka, Francis, Buick, Snickers, Sandy, Carmen, Carson, Daisy, Maci Lane and Cash.
A celebration of their lives will take place on Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 7:30 p.m., Chavez Plaza - downtown Phoenix, 201 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ, 85003.