Texas Legislature passes new kennel requirements following deadly Ponderosa Pet Resort fire
Sept. 18, 2021, was supposed to be the happiest day of Don and Pam Richards' lives.
After dating for 25 years, the pair was finally getting married. Instead, the date would go on to mark a horrible tragedy in their lives.
That Saturday, a fire broke out at the Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown, where the couple had chosen to board their two 4-month-old dogs, Bunnie and Clyde, during their wedding weekend.
Seventy-five dogs, including Bunnie and Clyde, were killed in the fire. It was later revealed that the facility was not equipped with a fire sprinkler system or 24-hour staffing.
"They had waited for such a long time to get married and were celebrating such a joyous event, and then, you know ... news that [Bunnie and Clyde] had both died in the fire," the couple's daughter, Robin Eissler, told KUT. "It's horrific."
Eissler said her parents were devastated.
"You realize what's happened, and then you start asking the questions, 'Why and how did this happen?'" she said. "And then it's incredibly frustrating when you learn that there's no protection for the consumer when going to a dog kennel."
Texas House Bill 2063 seeks to remedy that.
The bill, authored by state Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, and state Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, would require 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.
Facilities that fail to give notice would be hit with a $500 fine for each violation and for each day the violation continues.
"The fire in Georgetown was absolutely gut-wrenching. My heart goes out to the families that lost their loving companions," Talarico said in a statement. "After the fire, our community rallied together and called for action. Our legislation will ensure accidents like this never happen again in Texas."
The legislation was sponsored by state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and co-sponsored by state Sen. César Blanco, D-El Paso, and state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.
It was passed by both the Texas House and Senate this month and now awaits Gov. Greg Abbott's signature.
Eissler, however, said Texas still has a long way to go in terms of pet safety.
"Unfortunately, this legislation still puts the onus on the consumer or the buyer. It doesn't force any updates or requirements by animal care facilities," she said. "[But] anything is better than nothing, right? We're happy that this piece of legislation has made it to the governor's desk and hopefully becomes a law."