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A growing memorial to dogs that died at Green Acre Pet Boarding in Gilbert. / Michael Schennum/The Republic

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Dog owners who lost their pets in the Green Acre Dog Boarding incident continue to grieve, but they also are rescuing 40 other dogs who otherwise were scheduled to be euthanized.

"We want to leave a legacy in honor of our dogs who died. We don't think they died for nothing,'' said Shannon Gillette, who lost her Golden Retrievers, Sherman and Parker, at the Gilbert-area kennel where more than 20 dogs died in June.

"A lot of good dogs are euthanized every day because they're aren't enough people adopting them," she said.

The Green Acre dog owners established a gofundme.com account and raised nearly $13,000 after their pets perished in June. Gillette said they decided to rescue 40 dogs on Aug. 23, in honor of their pets. As a group, they are known as "the Gilbert 23'' because 23 dogs died in the Green Acre case, which remains under investigation by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities found 21 dead dogs when they went to the kennel near Glibert on June 21. Another two dogs that had been at the kennel also died, including one that apparently ran away. The kennel was owned and operated by Jesse Todd Hughes and his wife MaLeisa Hughes, who lost one of their own animals in the incident.

Her daughter and son-in-law, Logan and Austin Flake, were in charge of watching the dogs while the Hughes were on vacation in Florida.

The Flakes said that they checked on the dogs at about 11 p.m. June 19 and that they were fine. When they returned to check on the pets at about 5:30 a.m. June 20, the animals were distressed and dying, they said.

Investigators originally said it appeared that at least one of the dogs managed to chew or somehow pierce the home's wall and cut cords that run electricity to that portion of the home, which has multiple AC units.

The pet owners said they would have never boarded their dogs at Green Acre if they had known about the overcrowded conditions, and some told of how their dogs seemed thirsty and lethargic upon their return from Green Acre on previous occasions.

Tissue samples were sent to the University of Arizona for further testing and to the University of Michigan to prove or disprove claims that the dogs were drugged, according to court records.

Gillette said her group recruited 25 rescue organizations to take in the animals that will be adopted Saturday at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control's Phoenix facility.

She said groomers will give the dogs baths and they will wear purple bandannas when they leave the facility in unison, escorted by representatives of the participating rescue organizations.

"Instead of being euthanized, they're going to be in a freedom parade," Gillette said.

Melissa Gable, spokeswoman for Animal Care and Control, said she hopes that people will support the Gilbert 23 by adopting another dog at one of the county facilities, or maybe helping the rescue organizations by serving as a foster home for a dog.

The public is invited to attend the parade or adopt a dog at other county facilities throughout the Phoenix metro area.

Many rescue groups are small and do not have facilities for rescued dogs, Gable said.

She said the dogs being adopted by the Gilbert 23 were on the euthanization list, but some of them could have avoided being euthanized. Sometimes, a rescue organization will see a dog on the list, which is circulated among rescue groups, and adopt it to avoid euthanization.

The rescue organizations have arranged foster homes for the dogs being saved on Saturday, in hopes of finding someone to adopt them permanently at a later date, Gillette said.

Although she bought Sherman and Parker from a breeder, Gillette said she would never go that route again.

She said a rescue organization contacted her after the news about the Green Acre deaths became a big story. Thanks to the rescue organization, Gillette said she adopted two Golden Retriever mixes that had already been rescued by the organization and had been living in a foster home.

Gillette wants other dogs to get the same treatment as her new dogs, Cooper and Blake.

"They are very good dogs that deserve a second chance at life,'' Gillette said.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Green Acre dog owners turn grief into rescue mission

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