In a bizarre twist to a macabre story, Austin Flake, a son of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, was supposed to be watching nearly 30 dogs in a sketchy-sounding Arizona canine boarding house when the AC broke down in the shed where the dogs were held, and 20 of them died from the heat.

The operators of that boarding house, which supposedly was meant to hold far fewer dogs, went on vacation and put Flake and his wife in charge over the weekend—then, when the dogs died, the boarding-house operators lied to the canines' owners, telling them that their loved ones had run away, according to comments by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, reported in the Washington Post:

Flake and his wife were put in charge of the Green Acre facility while the owners, Todd and MaLeisa Hughes, were out of town in Florida.

"I learned of this tragic accident yesterday. I can't imagine the devastating loss these families are experiencing. My heart goes out to the owners who lost their beloved pet," the Senator said in a statement.

On Saturday morning, pet owners, who had initially been told by the Hughes that their pets had gone missing, arrived at the facility to find a horrific scene of as many as 20 dogs dead or dying in a small shed next to the Hughes' home.

"That was a lie," Arpaio said. "They didn't run away. The dogs are dead."...

The Maricopa County Sheriff's office initially said that one of the dogs chewed through the air conditioning unit cord which caused the unit to stop working. The dogs, which were among 28 that were believed to have been in the small shed, died of heat exhaustion they said, according to KSAZ.

Arpaio's officers apparently didn't find any wrongdoing on first encountering the scene at the dog shed, but conflicting reports to the dogs' owners left them frustrated and clamoring for an investigation. Arpaio has pledged to determine whether criminal neglect or abuse charges are appropriate.

Many of those owners had picked Green Acres on the basis of its now-defunct website, where it reportedly promised "love, play time and attention" to no more than eight dogs at a time, who would supposedly have the run of the property and the operators' house.

ABC 15 Arizona posted a picture to Facebook purported to be the kennel area where the dogs were held, with the chewed electrical wire visible at left:

This is not the first time one of Jeff Flake's sons has been under media scrutiny. Last summer, his youngest son Tanner came under fire for using the online screen name "n1ggerkiller" to bash Jews, "faggots," and Mexicans (whom he called the "scum of the earth"). The senator tersely and quickly apologized for that episode.

As for the owner of the boarding house who put Austin Flake in charge while she was away, she struck a defiant tone with the press. "The owners were full aware that these dogs would be in that room every single owner knew that. You guys understand this is a foster child I'm holding, right?" she said, outside her house in the raw interview above from Fox 10 Phoenix.

After an exchange with one reporter, she added:

"You can take that up with Senator Flake and Governor Brewer, when her face is on TV… you guys aren't gonna bully me. We provide an awesome business here. Nobody's reporting all our happy customers, all the customers who have come to our defense… nobody has the backbone or the integrity to print anything that's true."

Meanwhile, families of the dogs have set up a Facebook page for support and information sharing, which includes a gallery showing dozens of photos of the dogs and their families. The gallery is titled "Innocent Victims."