It is not surprising that winter is the leading time for home and kennel fires.
At the first signs of a winter cold snap, after an “arctic” cold front, or following an unusually cold period, we often hear devastatingly bad news about a home, business and/or kennel fire.
The loss of a home, business or property to a fire is a scary and overwhelming experience. The loss of many people’s beloved pets in a boarding kennel fire is heart wrenching to say the least. The loss of single dog in a kennel fire is just as tragic. My question to you today is ‘What can you do to make sure your dog(s) are safe from fire in your home or kennel?’
In all disasters, the number one rule is to protect health and human safety first. The easiest way to successfully complete rule number one is to prevent disasters before they happen. I will be the first to admit that preplanning, safety checks, and preparation don’t always work. There are always accidents, malfunctions, sudden or unexplained happenings, vandalism, and just plain bad luck… so how can you prevent these things from causing a fire? You do your best!
- Check all heaters, blowers, and fans on a regular basis. Make sure they are clean, in proper working order, and properly ventilated to the outside.
- Make sure there are not any flammable materials near your heat source. Make sure a dog, child or other animal cannot knock or push anything into or over onto the heat source.
- It is not very common to have a fireplace in a kennel, but if you have one or have dogs in your home with an active fireplace, have your fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected before using them. Always have a safety screen in place for pets and children. It is best not to burn candles or have open flames in a kennel. Check any air purifiers, rodent, or pest deterrent systems regularly as these can overheat and start a fire
- Smoke, carbon monoxide and heat detectors save lives. Have these devices installed and check often to ensure that batteries are working. Make it a habit to change the batteries in these devices on “Daylight Savings” days in the spring and fall. It is even safer to have a 24-hour-a-day monitored smoke, carbon monoxide and heat system in place.
- Do not use extension cords if possible. If you must use one, make sure it is of good quality and of the proper gage wiring.
- If you require an additional heat source for puppies, consider regulated in-floor radiant heat or heat mats or nests designed specifically for kennel use. Never use a human-grade heating pad within a dog enclosure. Heat lamps are extremely dangerous and not recommended in a kennel situation. If you must use heat lamps for added warmth in whelping areas and/or dog houses, make sure the lamp and cords are out of reach of dogs and not near any flammable materials. Use an approved electric conduit pipe to cover any exposed cords to help prevent a chewing hazard. Also make sure the bulb has a frame covering, which will reduce the chance of bulb breakage.
- Use fire-resistant building materials when building a kennel, especially in areas where the dogs will not have immediate access to the out of doors.
- Allow dogs to have outdoor access when safe to do so. This may save them in the event of a fire or smoke-producing event.
- Make sure you have a posted evacuation plan and working fire extinguishers. Know how turn off the electrical power within your kennel and how to use fire extinguishers. Never block or stack items in front of your electrical panel.
- Do not store chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, or other flammable materials within your kennel.
- If you have a fire suppression or sprinkler system, make sure to get it checked on a regular basis to ensure it is working properly.
- Last and certainly not least, get a regular checkup on all heat, cooling, and electrical systems. It is also a good practice to have all electrical work performed by a licensed electrician and make sure it is all up to code. Also make sure you have your veterinarian, emergency numbers and 911 contacts in place and posted.
I give you this information from experience because in 1986, it was heartbreaking and devastating for me when my home and kennel burned to the ground. My husband and I barely survived a burning inferno, but several of our beloved dogs died of smoke inhalation. One of the dogs we managed to rescue from the fire, my beloved Maynard, died a few months later from the lung damage he sustained on that dreadful evening. Even with veterinarian aftercare I could not save Maynard.
I recall wondering what I had done to deserve such a horrible thing. I knew, my clothes, furniture and other belonging could be replaced. They were just things, but the loss of my dogs, that was another story. As I recall this horrifying night 37 years later, it brings up the heartache, depression and fear I felt on that night and the weeks and years that followed. I guess I have never really gotten over the fire.
To this day, I still check the stove, the electrical plugs, small appliances, and any extension cords (which I rarely use) before I leave the house. I never burn candles and I just can’t make myself use the fireplace in my home. The recollection of this event renews a sense of how I can prevent this from happening to me again and bring awareness to others, so it does not happen to them or their dogs?
I challenge you to put together a Fire Prevention Plan today! Please do not wait to protect your dogs. Have your plan in place before July 15, which is National Pet Fire Safety Day. July, August, and September are the next deadliest months for kennel fires, and they will be here before you know it.
Stacy Mason is an AKC Senior Breeder Relations Field Representative.