Almost two months after nearly two dozen dogs (known as the "Gilbert 23") perished on or about June 20, 2014, at the pet boarding facility known as Green Acre, in Gilbert, Arizona, grieving dog owners are left with not much more than ongoing questions and profound loss. That facility was advertised to its clients as a "Disneyland" for dogs, where small groups of dogs would have free roam of the property, but instead turned into a death camp from which only a handful of 20+ dogs survived being crammed into a tiny 9 x 12 room. Although a search warrant was issued to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department in early July, and the boarding facility searched, no arrests in the matter have been made.
A copy of the search warrant itself was recently released, and details offered in that document shine a light on even more questions about the boarding facility.
One of those questions: "Where is Sandy?"
On June 17th, three days prior to the day that the majority of the dogs under Green Acre's care died, Jan Wohlfert brought her pug, Sandy, to the facility for boarding while she traveled. According to the search warrant, Ms. Wohlfert instructed Austin Flake - who greeted her and did Sandy's intake - that Sandy was to be kept indoors except for short bathroom breaks, because of Sandy's breathing limitations. The Pug breed commonly has breathing problems, and being too hot will exacerbate those issues, with possible outcomes being death or illness. On June 18th, Austin Flake contacted Jan to tell her that Sandy had been found dead, after being let outside for an undetermined amount of time. Understandably upset, Ms. Wohlfert, who was boarding a plane at the time of the call from Mr. Flake, tried contacting the facility's owner, Jesse Hughes, as soon as she landed at her destination. She attempted four times, without receiving a response from Mr. Hughes. On her fifth and final attempt, Ms. Wohlfert spoke with Mr. Hughes, who instead told her, "Sandy went to sleep and did not wake up." She asked him to take care of the cremation process for her, because did not want to step foot at his facility ever again.
When she returned, she contacted the Hugheses, trying to find out about Sandy's remains. She has never received any response from the Hughes family or Austin Flake, and to this day, Jan Wohlfert is bereft of Sandy's remains and any closure. She does not know what truly became of Sandy.
The mystery of what exactly happened to Sandy, and why her remains were never returned to her family, is just one of the many that remain unsolved in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy. The families of the Gilbert 23 continue to apply pressure through social media, in the hope that the quest for these answers, will not fall by the wayside.
In the meantime, as true dog lovers, these families are trying to turn this tragedy into a triumph by launching a rescue mission to save 23 dogs from euthanasia on August 23, 2014, in honor of the Gilbert 23; they are also taking their pursuit of justice to the civil courts, by filing a lawsuit against the boarding facility on August 25, 2014.
The Gilbert 23 may be gone, but it is plain that they are not forgotten, and their supporters, loved ones, and families remain steadfast in their mission - if you want to show your support and add your voice, please visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Tragedy-at-Green-Acre-Dog-Boarding-Gilbert-AZ/1523156181236576 or their Twitter page: https://twitter.com/GrnAcrTragedy23.
“Animal lovers are a special breed of humans, generous of spirit, full of empathy, perhaps a little prone to sentimentality, and with hearts as big as a cloudless sky.”
― John Grogan