As so many in Georgetown mourned the 75 dogs lost in an accidental fire last month, a few pup parents channeled their emotions, and fortitude, to begin a movement that will hopefully ensure other pet owners never suffer the same kind of tragedy.
After the fire, a social media and community movement grew and evolved into the Georgetown 75, a committee organized by a group of volunteers including Carlena Stearns, Maddy Jaeger, Charity Martinez, and Darla Bower. They are dedicated to honoring the animals, and working for change in regulations. This committed group of family members and community volunteers helped coordinate the Popptoberfest pup parade with Wag Heaven.
Dozens of volunteers gathered photos of every pup and made signs to honor them during Popptoberfest. They also coordinated multiple ways for the community to support the families, including memorials and special gifts for their lost fur-family members.
While City and fire department leadership continue to assess and inspect pet facilities city-wide, a large group of the families, determined to get laws on the books, established another group, a non profit called Protect the Pets, now chaired by Allen Craddock. The mission of Protect the Pets is to advocate for consumer awareness about the lack of pet care facility regulations and work to enact legislation at the local, state and national levels.
Protect the Pets and the Georgetown 75 have since merged to move forward under one mission, combining the power of the community with the determination of the families. They are in the process of incorporating and submitting a 501(c)3 application.
Robin Eissler, a Protect the Pets’ organizer, says, “Right now, we are focusing on learning everything we can and gathering data from other states about similar events. We are taking what we know about our own and educating people about the need for animal safety laws. This is a different case than animal welfare or cruelty, for which there are many laws—such as the proper way to tether animals—but nothing to protect them from fire. What we want is for pets to have the same protection a human would have in a hotel.”
Protect the Pets believes this can be achieved by establishing Occupant status for animals, which would require certain safety measures, and repercussions for non-compliance. “These fires are much more prevalent than people realize,” Robin says. “Preliminary searches revealed there have been many incidents, even in Texas. Many happen in shelters and those animals did not have owners or advocates so the message doesn’t get out.” The group’s goal, however, is to start by creating safer environments in pet businesses and extend the same protections to shelters.
THE CHANGE PETS NEED
The single most important protection is supervised fire detection systems.
“Pet facilities need smoke and temperature detectors that automatically dial 9-1-1,” Robin says. “The problem is that when unattended, there is no first responder alert and no egress for the animals in the meantime.” This is the first level of gold-standard protection, she adds. Beyond that, the ideal system would include sprinklers, 24-hour staffing, and safe zones that enable animals to get outside. Their research indicates the mechanics and complete installation of such a system is about $20,000, which should not be considered an unreasonable cost over the lifespan of a business.
Since the event, District 20 Rep. Terry Wilson has filed HR38, a memorial resolution on behalf of the all animals. He recognized them and committed to work with families to move safety items into committee for the next regular session. As well, District 52 Rep. James Talarico filed a bill calling for sprinkler systems and 24-hour staffing.
Protect the Pets is also working with the city and GFD Chief John Sullivan to update the fire code and raise consumer awareness about the dearth of regulations in the pet care space. Robin says, “We simply want people to ask the questions. Do you have an evacuation plan, do you have monitors, etc. When consumers ask questions, businesses make changes.”
GET INVOLVED FOR PETS
Protect the Pets will be creating various committees and volunteer opportunities to support their programs and meet with city and state officials. They also have a donation platform on their website to help fund their awareness campaign.
The bottom line for all the group members is to make people aware that there are animals that are unprotected while you’re reading this article, and that needs to change. “All those animals are at risk just like ours were,” Robin says. “The sooner we move on this, the greater our chances to avoid another tragedy. We just want to make sure no animal or family ever has to go through this again.” Click for more…