Pet Fire Safety Law Passes


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When over 30 dogs were killed in a fire in West Chicago at Bully Life Animal Services (formerly D and D Kennels),  2N442 County Farm Road on January 14, I thought this shouldn’t ever happen again. Indeed, this tragedy, and others like it – which do happen around the country – are often preventable. I thought we need a pet fire safety bill.

Simultaneously, there was all sorts of controversy and allegations about there being too many dogs at Bully Life Animal Services in overcrowded conditions, about poor wiring (causing the fire) and about aversive training methods allegedly used by the trainer/manager of the facility.

Indeed evidence suggested there were too many dogs at the facility. But I am not a fire inspector and the manager’s training methods – while important – have little directly do with the fire.

I decided to take action to do what I can. I contacted Marc Ayers, Illinois Director of the Humane Society of the United States.

I suggested there needs to be law to protect animals from fires in boarding facilities: They must have a working sprinkler system, a human being on premises to contact the fire department or an alarm system that hooks up directly to dispatch.

Ayers agreed that a pet fire safety bill makes sense, and totally stewarded the bill – the first like it in the U.S. as far as I know. State Rep. Diane Pappas (D-45th district) stepped up to help write it and also and to sponsor.  The co-sponsor was State Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-66th district). The Illinois Senate version was shepherded by Sen. Donald DeWitte (33rd district), where it passed unanimously. (And that in a state where nothing passes unanimously).

Animal and Human Lives Saved

I spoke to fire officials who concurred that the bill will likely save pet lives, “no question.” But also human lives may be saved as well. When the fire department isn’t alerted early to a fire, it the fire may get larger – and therefore may be more dangerous for firefighter. Also, there may be more structural damage and a greater chance of the fire spreading to adjacent buildings.

I am told that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who is a dog owner, is actually excited to sign the bill.

On Christmas Eve last year, a kennel fire took the lives of nine dogs in Maryland. On March 5 no dog made it out alive from a kennel fire in Stacy, Minnesota. Eighteen dogs perished. Other states have already contacted me, and my hope is that this effort will be replicated elsewhere. In Spring 2018, 30 dogs were killed during fire at a west Michigan kennel.  Sadly, these fires are not uncommon. While human daycare (appropriately) has a myriad of fire safety laws, mostly laws for pet facilities are nonexistent. Please help this to change in your state.