Fire code changes in Georgetown following death of 75 dogs at pet resort

On September 18, 2021, 75 dogs died in a fire at a pet-boarding facility in Georgetown, Texas. Since, fire code changes have been made to help protect animals in boarding facilities.

"Everybody came together, everybody hurt, you know, and we all cried," Wag Heaven co-owner Jusak Yang Bernhard said.

Fiona was one of the 75 dogs who died in a fire at the Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown last year.

"One-hundred percent shock, obviously I was distraught and upset and a little bit guilty on my end,’ Fiona’s owner Kelly Thyssen said. ‘It was just kind of a last-minute trip that we went out of town, so I felt a little guilty of like well, we should have stayed home, we didn't need to go out of town."

Thyssen said she had been using this facility to board her dogs for about eight years and never had any issues. She said to this day, she doesn’t blame them.

"Things happen and you know, it's unfortunate, but I lost one dog and all of that staff, they lost 75 dogs because I know how much they care for these animals and they were like family to them as well, so my heart broke for all the staff and the owner and this is a tragic event that will live with them for the rest of their lives as well," Thyssen said.

Now, a mural of the 75 is displayed at Wag Heaven in downtown Georgetown.

"Knowing these people personally and in such an unexpected tragedy, that's why it just got us to move and say we really need to do something to honor us and keep the memories of these heroes alive," Wag Heaven co-owner Jeff Manley said.

At the time of the fire, smoke alarms or a sprinkler system were not required for the use and size of the facility, and they didn’t have any. Since, many people have advocated for changes to the City of Georgetown’s Fire Code.


"What is it that we need to do to ensure your pets are safe, even people, pets, everything when you put them into the care of somebody else, the city and the changes we're talking about are there to make sure that they're safe," Manley said.

Several changes have been approved including requiring all facilities to install supervised fire alarm systems. For new facilities, they must also have a sprinkler system and supervised carbon-monoxide detection system. The fire department has also taken steps to help mitigate similar incidents in the future including adding animal housing or care facilities to its annual priority inspections list and auditing.

Thyssen said before you board your dog again, "Go in and ask questions, if they let you tour the facility, that's a plus and don't be afraid to ask questions on what are your policies for this, do you have an emergency plan for that, what's your evacuation policy, what's your overnight period, just really ask a lot of questions until you're comfortable."

A petition was launched shortly after the fire last year and has gained almost 20,000 signatures. The petition calls for the establishment and enforcement of laws to protect pets placed in boarding facilities and veterinary clinics.