Around 75 dogs died in a fire Saturday night at Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown, according to the Georgetown Fire Department, leaving dozens of owners to mourn the losses of their furry companions.
The fire department arrived on the scene less than five minutes after 911 calls started flooding in at 10:56 p.m. At their arrival, they found flames and clouds of smoke, according to GFD Chief John Sullivan.
Twenty-five firefighters were on the scene, hoping to save as many lives as possible, initially trying to open some ventilation and control the smoke, though they were unable to save any dogs. Sullivan said his heart goes out to the families of the victims of the fire.
"I've been doing this for 29 years and this is the first incident that I've had where we've lost so many pets," Sullivan said. "I hate to use that term because, to me, a pet is a lot more than a pet—it is the closest friend. I wish I could convey my internal emotions adequately. I just wish I could go back in time to make it better."
Families of the fallen pets, who are believed to have died from smoke inhalation, have created a memorial outside the pet resort's fence complete with flowers, photos, notes and beloved toys of their friends.
No people were discovered at the scene—Ponderosa's boarding policies state that the staff feels that pets sleep better at night when no employees are there, so the pets are left unattended at night.
The fire department is still working to discover what caused the fire. Despite fire and smoke damage to the inside, the outer metal exterior survived the blaze. Based on the type of construction and occupancy type, the building was not required to have a sprinkler system.
"Quite frankly, I view my personal pet as probably my closest confidant, friend and the one that doesn't judge, so my heart just breaks," Sullivan said.
The fire claimed the lives of dog duo Bunny and Clyde, leaving owners and newlywed couple Don and Pam Richard devastated and angry KXAN reports, saying they wouldn't have left the dogs had they known they would be left unattended at night.
The Richard family is planning to petition the city of Georgetown, making it so that animals in professional care are never left unattended again.
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Austin really, really loves its dogs, and don't think for a second the city's most famous don't have their own furry friends.
Here are the dogs of Austin's famous residents.
Owner: Brooklyn Decker
The supermodel and actress, who is married to tennis star Andy Roddick, has a thing for bulldogs. The couple has named two after sports greats: Billie Jean and Bob Costas. Billie Jean died in October 2020, but Bob Costas is still flourishing—even making it onto Decker's latest photoshoot.
Theo and four more
Owner: James Van Der Beek
New Austin residents, the Van Der Beeks, have five dogs, so we understand why the family of seven sought out more space in the Hill Country. The family's newest addition is a Siberian Husky rescued from an LA kill shelter named Theo.
Marshall Mae Rogan
Owner: Joe Rogan
Racking up 740,000 followers on Instagram, Marshall Mae Rogan is a star all by herself. Superstar podcaster Rogan has posted the golden retriever on his own social media, but she has been posing gracefully on her own account since 2018.
Cheesy and three more
Owner: Camilla McConaughey
With a white muzzle, Cheesy is the McConaughey family's oldest dog. They also have another older dog and recently adopted two rescues in a single weekend. Like the Van Der Beeks, the McConaugheys have a full house.
Icarus and one more
Owner: Jensen Ackles
The "Supernatural" star has a cocker spaniel-poodle mix. He was not initially happy with wife Danneel, who brought him home more than 10 years ago. The dog, Icarus, has recently had complications in his old age.
Henry and three more
Owner: Chris Bosh
A family of seven needs a dog, and the Boshs have Henry. A white Maltese, little Henry completes the Bosh family.
Owner: Jackie Venson
After a year of canceled performances, Venson is ready to hit the road. This time around, she'll have a very special companion. Venson got Jack, a mini Dachshund, in 2020 and is planning on taking him on tour. Their next stop is Oklahoma City this week.
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Austin has raised its level of risk to "increased risk" for potentially dog-killing algae in Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin after harmful bacteria was found in Lake Travis.
Cyanotoxins are forms of harmful blue-green algae that can flourish in blooms in standing bodies of water, and they've been harmful to dogs in both lakes in the past as well as Lake Travis.
According to staff from the Watershed Protection Department, algae has been observed in Lady Bird Lake and will have samples tested by the University of Texas at Austin. A sample was also taken from Lake Austin and sent in last week. Results for both will be posted here.
Last year, at least five dogs died after swimming in Lady Bird Lake in the summer of 2019. Earlier this year, one golden retriever was reported dead after swimming in nearby Lake Travis. The LRCA has also reported four dogs who got sick after swimming in the area.
Although exact times have not been determined, experts have found that harmful algae blooms can occur in warmer times of the year, Ph.D. Environmental Scientist Senior Brent Bellinger said. Blooms of the harmful algae can cause the deaths of livestock and dogs, and people may also suffer health issues after being exposed, though it's more rare. Symptoms in dogs may include fatigue, excessive salivating, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.
Dog owners should avoid areas with visible algae mats and stagnant areas of the lakes, and dogs should not touch or ingest algae. Rinsing dogs after they swim can also help to avoid them licking algae from their fur.
If a dog reports any telltale symptoms, dog owners should consult a vet immediately and report the illness to 3-1-1.
While swimming for dogs should be met with caution, humans can still boat and fish without risk.
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Austin is known for being a dog-friendly city, and Austinites take their role as dog-owner seriously.
Seriously enough that if you're not in the Christmas spirit, you can count on the pups in this city to put a smile on your face with their Christmas getup.
Here are some Instagram dogs of Austin who are ready for the holidays:
Lucas, Brooklyn and Cooper
With Christmas only 10 days away, some Austin residents might be looking to adopt or foster a pup for the holidays. Whether you're able to foster or want to add a new fluffy member to the family, local shelters, such as Austin Pets Alive!, Austin Animal Center and Austin Humane Society have you covered. You can check out their websites for more information on fostering or adopting.
This story is part of a holiday series counting down to Christmas so make sure to visit Austonia tomorrow, as we reach nine days until Christmas.
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