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Round Rock adopts new fire safety requirements for 24-hour animal care facilities

A memorial decorated with a banner, flowers and pictures of dogs outside of the closed Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown
Allyson Ortegon
/
KUT
The fence outside the Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown is decorated with flowers and pictures of dogs. A fire at the kennel on Sept. 18, 2021, killed 75 dogs.

The City of Round Rock has become the latest city to adopt new fire safety requirements for animal care facilities following the deadly Ponderosa Pet Resort fire in 2021.

Seventy-five dogs were killed in the fire at the Georgetown facility, which did not have a sprinkler system or 24-hour staffing. The fire department arrived within five minutes of 911 calls, but no pets survived.

The Round Rock City Council voted unanimously to amend the city's code of ordinances at its meeting Thursday to include the new safety requirements.

"It's a small impact, but we feel like it's a huge benefit for any pet owner in the city to know that their pet is at a business that's being protected," Round Rock Fire Chief Shane Glaiser told council members during a meeting on March 23, when the amendment underwent its first reading.

The requirements will impact both new and existing 24-hour animal housing or care facilities in the city.

Existing facilities will be required to install a monitored fire alarm system, as well as a fire sprinkler system if any square footage or height is added to the facility.

The city said fire department officials have identified 23 existing businesses in the city as animal housing or care facilities. Four of those facilities will need to install an alarm system within the next two years under the ordinance.

New facilities must be equipped with a monitored sprinkler and fire detection system — regardless of their size.

Leikyn Huckins, who lives in Liberty Hill, told KUT that Round Rock's new fire safety requirements make the city the new "gold standard" for boarding animals in Texas.

For her, the issue is personal. Huckins lost her 3-year-old French Bulldog, Gizmo, and 4-year-old Old English Bulldog, Drexel, in the Ponderosa fire.

"It's unspeakable that we think that it's OK that they be locked in cages when they depend on humans for everything. That they be locked in cages with no protection," she said. "I mean, the horrific way they died — it will never leave me. It will haunt me for the rest of my life."

Huckins said she now devotes her time to helping prevent similar tragedies.

"I'm just going to keep going city by city, telling my story and trying to get them to change the laws," she said. "As long as we continue to let these facilities operate without any regulations, without any protections to the animals, we're on a countdown until the next accident happens."

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Kailey Hunt is KUT's Williamson County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at khunt@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @KaileyEHunt.
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