Bill reintroduced to strengthen fire protection following Georgetown nursery tragedy

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Texas legislator is reintroducing a bill that would strengthen fire suppression systems in kennels in the wake of the 2021 tragedy at a pet shelter in Georgetown.

Rep. James Talarico, D-Austin, filed Bill 66 ahead of the Texas legislative session officially beginning Tuesday. It had previously filed a similar version of this proposal during the third special session in 2021.

In a statement released to KXAN on Friday, Talarico explained, “I am introducing this law to protect our pets and ensure that a tragedy like the one we witnessed in Georgetown never happens again. I am ready to work with my fellow Republicans and Democrats to protect our loyal comrades. House Bill 66 would require all dog kennel operators in Texas who do not have a 24-hour employee to install fire alarms and sprinkler systems. The Georgetown fire was excruciating and could have been prevented. It’s time to stop the next disaster.”

The legislation requires kennel owners in Texas to either install and maintain a smoke detection system in each of their buildings, or ensure that an employee remains on the premises at all times the dogs and cats are kept there. It will also be considered a misdemeanor to violate the requirements contained in this offer.

The bill would require the system to turn on a sprinkler and instantly alert employees, along with the local fire department.

Talarico filed the original version of this bill after 75 animals died in a September 2021 fire at Georgetown’s Ponderosa Pet Resort. Firefighters said no one was inside when the fire started. Since then, a petition that has garnered over 17,000 signatures has called for more fire safety measures at pet shelters.

It remains unclear at this time if the bill will be more successful during the 88th Texas Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 10.

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