After hearing emotional appeals from people whose dogs died in a fire at a pet boarding house last year, the Georgetown City Council has approved the requirement that all existing animal care or boarding facilities be equipped with supervised fire alarm systems.
It also approved more advanced fire code requirements for any animal care or boarding facilities to be built in the future.
The systems must be installed within 18 months and are designed to alert a monitoring company who then contacts the Georgetown Fire Department if an alarm goes off.
The council passed the measure on Tuesday, more than four months after 75 dogs died in a Sept. 19 fire at the Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown. the the facility did not have fire alarms but was not required to have them at this time.
Firefighters have not determined the exact cause of the fire, but have cited six theories as to how electrical malfunctions could have started the fire.
Lawsuit filed by 24 dog owners killed in Ponderosa Pet Resort fire
Twenty-four owners of the deceased dogs filed a lawsuit in November against Pet Resort owner Phillip Paris, claiming Paris knew the property had electrical problems before the tragedy happened. The trial is still pending.
Georgetown is not the only Texas City to require fire alarm systems in animal care facilities. Longview passed an ordinance in 2016 requiring fire alarm systems in pet boarding houses after a blaze in an animal hospital killed 38 pets.
The cost to install such a system is about $2 per square foot, said Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan. Monitoring costs are about $600 a year, he said.
The requirements affect 17 existing animal care businesses in Georgetown, officials said.
Six other animal care businesses in the city already have supervised fire alarm systems.
“Nightmares and Guilt for the Horrible Way They Died”
The city council was due to vote on Tuesday only on fire requirements for new animal care businesses. But after hearing from some distraught owners whose dogs had died in the Ponderosa fire, the board unanimously approved fire alarm systems for existing businesses.
Liberty Hill’s Leikyn Huckins said she lost two dogs in the fire. “I have nightmares and I feel guilty for the horrible way they died,” she said. told the council members Tuesday. “Thinking of the terror they experienced and the panic they faced and the very real possibility that they were probably burned alive. Like the majority of the public, I thought it would be certain that ‘they would have a fire alarm system.’
Bill Treadway of Georgetown told council he and his wife lost their dog, a Weimaraner, to the fire.
“If Ponderosa had been required to have a fire alarm, our dogs wouldn’t have suffocated and burned,” he said. “Video indicates the dogs were alive 13 to 15 minutes after the fire started.”
Robin Eissler of Georgetown said the city is known for going above and beyond required minimum standards. “The reason this community is great is that we don’t do the minimum,” she said.
“Consider adopting this (new fire code requirements for existing businesses) so Georgetown will be known as man’s best friend’s best friend.”
What the New Fire Codes Mean for Existing Pet Boarding Houses in Georgetown
Council member Amanda Parr introduced the amendment that requires existing animal care or boarding facilities to have supervised fire alarm systems within 18 months.
She said 75% of people surveyed by the city after the pet store fire said existing facilities should have supervised fire alarm systems. Approving new regulations for existing businesses was not the direction the council should be moving in, she said., but “this is not a normal situation.”
She said she chose to give existing animal care facilities 18 months to install a supervised fire alarm system due to ongoing supply chain issues and lack of employees.
Member of the board Tommy Gonzalez opposed the amendment, saying applying retroactive orders to existing businesses in the city would set a bad example.
“It’s a very emotional issue when you’re dealing with family members, whether they’re humans or pets, but I’m not going to worry about the emotional stuff,” Gonzales said.
Other board members disagreed with Gonzalez, including Mike Triggs, who said existing animal care facilities should be required to have a supervised fire alarm.
“We want to level the playing field,” he said. Triggs said it’s not fair that existing animal care businesses that already have a supervised fire alarm system have to compete with those that don’t.
New animal care facilities in Georgetown will have to have a sprinkler system unless businesses choose acceptable alternatives, according to the city’s website. Companies that do not need to install a sprinkler system are:
• A facility with 30 or fewer animals on site that has a supervised fire alarm system and a Class A finish on the walls (similar to drywall that is used in residential garages).
• A facility with 31 to 50 animals on site that has a supervised fire alarm system; fire resistant materials surrounding the kennel area; and a Class A finish on the walls.
• A facility that provides all animals with immediate and unobstructed access to the outdoors; and has a supervised fire alarm system.
Unless sprinklers are otherwise required by city building or fire codes, a facility is also not required to install a sprinkler system if it provides 24-hour on-site supervision. and an approved fire alarm system, the city says the website.
Electronically supervised carbon monoxide detection systems are also required in all new animal care facilities.