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Georgetown To Create Memorial For Pets Lost In Ponderosa Resort Fire

Georgetown City Hall.
Michael Minasi
Georgetown City Hall.

The Georgetown City Council plans to create a memorial for the 75 dogs that died in a fire at Ponderosa Pet Resort earlier this month.

The Georgetown Fire Department responded to 911 calls at the facility on Sept. 18. By the time the department arrived four and a half minutes later, the building was engulfed in smoke from the fire. None of the dogs in the building survived.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing.

The council voted Tuesday to direct city staff to work on a plan for a memorial in Bark Park. The amount for the project was not specified, but the council suggested the project be both to honor the pets lost and to offer some functionality or enhancement to the park.

"I hope that in a tragedy like this that we can look and find some silver lining, that we could do something in the future to help avoid this type of unnecessary loss ...," Council Member Tommy Gonzalez said. "But let's keep our eye on the ball that with this memorial, it's to remind us of doing better and making sure that something like this doesn't happen again."

City Manager David Morgan said the city will also work with the 59 families that lost pets due to the fire to create the memorial. And he said the timeline for creating the memorial would be about six months.

"[We] don't want to delay this, but also [we] don't want to short-circuit the process that will minimize the impact that this memorial has the potential of making," Morgan said.

The amount was also not decided Tuesday because some council members said they hoped to raise funds for the project through community donations, rather than by solely using city funding.

"I really like the idea of something structural, something a little bit more significant, something that will serve both dog owners and/or dogs ...," Council Member Shawn Hood said. "And I would actually look forward to challenging our community in the donation area of this and rallying around this."

The community has begun rallying with a petition with more than 15,000 signatures for better prevention methods to be put in place at pet facilities to avoid a similar event in the future.

Georgetown resident Carmela Stearns started the petition and was present at the meeting.

"My petition is solely to bring awareness and change for owners, as well as other animals and business owners, to laws and ordinances to put preventative safety measures in place that should have already been there," Stearns said.

The petition calls for an updated fire code that would require a smoke alarm, sprinkler system and 24/7 staffing for facilities like the Ponderosa resort, all of which were not required at the time of the incident.

The current fire code requires sprinklers for occupancies listed, or operating as a business, of at least 10,000 square feet. Ponderosa has a square footage of 8,125.

People also demanded that a kennel permit be required by Ponderosa, which it had failed to obtain prior to the fire.

The city said that the lack of a kennel permit does not mean that the resort could not operate. The facility does have a certificate of occupancy, which allowed it to operate.

Georgetown has not been enforcing a kennel permit ordinance, though plans to do so are going forward.

Allyson Ortegon is a former Williamson County reporter for KUT.
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