AUSTIN (KXAN) — A bill filed in response to a fire that took the lives of 75 dogs at a Georgetown pet resort in 2021 passed both chambers of the Texas Legislature this week.
House Bill 2063 is aimed at increasing safety requirements in Texas kennels. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, where it could be signed into law.
In September 2021, a fire broke out at the Ponderosa Pet Resort, killing 75 dogs belonging to 59 families. None of the facility’s staff members were on-site at the time, and there wasn’t a sprinkler system.
The City of Georgetown told KXAN after it happened that its fire code, as well as federal and state standards, did not require sprinkler systems for a facility of this type and size.
According to State Rep. James Talarico, after the fire, dog lovers and community advocates organized a petition that garnered more than 17,000 signatures from across the country calling for legislative solutions to keep dogs in kennels safe.
In response, Talarico filed House Bill 2063, which requires kennels to disclose to pet owners if a dog or cat will be left unattended or left in a facility that does not have a fire sprinkler system, according to the representative.
“The fire in Georgetown was absolutely gut-wrenching. My heart goes out to the families that lost their loving companions,” Talarico said. “After the fire, our community rallied together and called for action. Our legislation will ensure accidents like this never happen again in Texas.”
The bill awaits a signature from Abbott.
Owner turns grief into action
Leikyn Huckins boarded her two dogs, Gizmo and Drexel, at the Ponderosa Pet Resort before the fire broke out. She says she was heartbroken by the loss and shocked to learn about the standard for pet boarding facilities in the state.
“The problem is there just really isn’t any oversight. There are not really any regulations besides sanitation. So, you know, you really have to be your own pets advocate,” Huckins said.
Huckins since has led families that lost pets in the blaze to call for changes at the local and state level to improve pet safety at these facilities.
She has written and met with local leaders to call for city pet safety ordinances. She cites that Georgetown, Liberty Hill, Cedar Park, and Round Rock have all put measures protecting pets from similar dangers on their books.
Huckins said she is excited the bill has reached the governor’s desk and hopes it is the first of many that will secure pet safety in Texas.
“It’s all been a positive response. And I look forward to just continuing until I can get something passed on a state level that will include fire protection for these buildings,” Huckins said.
In the meantime, Huckins has taken to social media to highlight legislative changes and share photos and videos of the pets lost in the fire.
She also uses the account to educate owners on what they should consider asking a boarding house before trusting them with their pets.
“There’s no requirements for fire sprinklers, there’s no requirements for somebody to be there overnight. There’s not even requirements for climate control. So you need to ask everything that you assume will be provided,” Huckins said.