GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — A fire at a Williamson County pet resort on Saturday night ended with the deaths of around 75 animals.
The deadly fire happened at around 11:05 p.m. Sept. 19 at Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown, the Georgetown Fire Department chief John Sullivan confirmed Sunday.
Sullivan says when crews arrived, they found significant fire and smoke — the animals are believed to have died from smoke inhalation. No humans were inside during the fire.
“The building was not occupied by humans, but by no indication do I want to lead anyone to believe that that is any less tragic,” Sullivan said Sunday. “It is extremely heart-wrenching for us as first responders. My heart just dropped when I got the address and knew exactly the location we were going to.”
GFD says crews will work to retrieve the remains of the animals to get them to families.
Ponderosa offers training, grooming and boarding and was founded over 10 years ago by owner Phillip Paris, a dog trainer and former City of Georgetown police officer. GFD said Sunday the owner is cooperating with the department and expresses condolences to families of the pets.
Fatal fires at pet stay facilities have happened across the country before. Back in 2019, 31 dogs died in a Chicago kennel fire, leading Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign a law requiring kennels remain constantly staffed and are equipped with sprinklers and fire alarms. Earlier this year, a blaze at a dog kennel in Bardstown, Kentucky, claimed the lives of about 50 dogs except for one female, who’d recently birthed six puppies who also died.
A 2017 court case in Washington D.C. centered on one pet owner who sued a boarding facility after her teacup Yorkie was killed by another dog inside. The dog’s owner claimed the facility was negligent. The business denied the claims of negligence, however, calling the death a “freak accident.”
GFD says it’s too early to pinpoint the cause of the fire, but crews have established its point of origin. The department says it’s actively working to determine the cause as quickly as possible.
“We encourage people not to minimize this,” Sullivan concluded on Sunday. “It’s a big deal when you lose an extension of your family… My heart goes out — because it was unfair that I could go home last night and give my dog Rockford the biggest hug possible. He’s my comfort, he’s my confidante. And many of these family members have had that ripped out from them now.”