Law makes pet kennels safer, but why stop there?

  • A woman is reunited with her dog after a fire in January at a kennel near Carol Stream.

      A woman is reunited with her dog after a fire in January at a kennel near Carol Stream. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted8/7/2019 7:48 PM

When you have to board your beloved pet, you might select a kennel where animals can get individual play or cuddle time and a human bed to sleep on.

You might pay extra for bedtime snacks.


You might make sure someone is there 24/7, or you might simply assume that's the case, or you might not even think to ask. Animal owners expect the kennel will keep their pets safe.

That assumption was proved wrong in January, when about 30 dogs died in a fire at a Carol Stream-area kennel called the Bully Life Animal Services, formerly D & D Kennels.

The facility lacked fire prevention safety measures and no one was on site to notice when the fire broke out, DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in announcing charges last month against operator Garrett Mercado of Woodridge,

The kennel was housing at least 58 dogs, and Berlin said many of the dogs that died were tightly tethered or kept in stacked crates or on the second floor, which was consumed by flames by the time a sheriff's deputy passing by saw the fire and summoned help.

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A law signed Tuesday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker is designed to prevent fires at kennels, or at least prevent delays in responding to such fires.

Under the new law, introduced by state Rep. Diane Pappas of Itasca in the weeks after the fire, kennels must either be staffed at all times or have fire sprinkler systems or alarm systems that notify local authorities if a fire occurs.

The law is a big step toward protecting animals and reassuring pet owners. But it doesn't go far enough.

Animals who are not anyone's pets lack similar protections, since animal shelters are exempt from the fire protection provisions of the new law.

That gap needs to be corrected. We understand the costs of fire protection equipment or overnight staffers can strain shelters' budgets, but animals housed there deserve the same attention to safety as those kept in kennels and might be even more in need, since they lack the advocacy provided by a loving owner.

Illinois has a good track record on animal welfare. The Animal Legal Defense Fund in January ranked Illinois as the top state -- for the 11th year in a row -- for laws that protect animals.

That top ranking is laudable and people who work on behalf of animals in Illinois should be proud. Yet, it's no reason for complacency, as Illinois found out when the Carol Stream fire occurred just days after the latest ranking was released.

The law signed this week by Gov. Pritzker is a big step toward improving safety of animals in Illinois kennels. It's worth celebrating, but it shouldn't be the end of the fight.

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