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Saving Pets’ Lives from Kennel Fires


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Saving lives should be bipartisan. Following a kennel fire that killed over 30 dogs in West Chicago (Bully Life Animal Services or formerly D and D Kennels), 2N442 County Farm Road on January 14, I quickly learned three facts:

  • The fact that so many dogs died was avoidable.
  • The fact that there are few fire safety regulations mandated for kennels/boarding facilities.
  • The fact that these sorts of fires killing dogs aren’t particularly unusual around the country, including Illinois, because there are so few common-sense regulations.

Taking Action

I contacted Marc Ayers, Illinois director of the Humane Society who with Illinois State Representative Diane Pappas (D-45th district) have come up with what turned out to be IL HB 3390 with co-sponsor Allen Skillicorn (R-66th district).

The bill says that all kenneling and boarding facilities must have working fire alarms to ring directly to fire departments (dogs can’t call 9-1-1); a working sprinkler system or an employee on the premises 24/7. One of those three options.

The bill did just sail through the House Committee on Labor & Commerce, but still needs to be tweaked for some technical language suggested by fire inspectors and then on to the House floor, if that can be achieved in time – which Pappas is determined to do.

I spoke with Pappas HERE on WGN radio.

How Can Some Oppose Saving Animal Lives?

There is actually some opposition to the bill, mostly by republicans (but some democrats too) concerned about cost to private business.

First, consider that many boarding/kenneling operations are already in compliance – so this proposal wouldn’t not include them.

For those facilities not currently in compliance, the least expensive option is simply to have an alarm system hooked up directly to first responders, today a common technology. And a technology which fire experts suggest is a good idea.

Depending on the size of the facility and where the facility is in Illinois (as everything is a tad more expensive in Chicago), we’re talking approximately approaching $2,000 to $3,000. If the cost is passed on to customers, we’re talking likely less than a few dollars (if not less than a dollar) a day more to board an animal. Most people don’t board animals for many weeks at a time, so for days at a time, I ask who would be unwilling to pay a cost hike so minimal for this protection that they’d barely notice it in the first place?

I generally agree with concerns regarding putting small business out of business, as that is never the intent. Kennel and boarding facilities aren’t selling hardware supplies or jewelry – these businesses are caring for family members who are incapable of contacting emergency responders themselves What’s more, being kept in kennels, they’re incapable of escape without assistance. Humans could at least have a chance to run out an open door, the dogs and cats can not.

Kenneling and boarding facilities are in business to make money, of course. But their fundamental mission is to care for and protect our animals when we’re not there. Any kenneling and boarding facility unable or unwilling to do this should not, in my opinion, be in business.

Please contact your state representative or state senator to ask for support of House Bill 3390.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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