An early morning fire at Thousand Hills Pet Resort on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo left seven dogs dead Monday.
The fire, which burned unattended for at least an hour, destroyed three small dog kennels, Cal Fire Capt. Zach Nichols said.
The cacophony of dogs barking at the kennel on Buckley Road was met mid-morning Monday by a remorseful, somber staff.
Fire investigators spent much of Monday sifting through the burnt remnants trying to determine what caused the fire. Nichols said they hope to know the answer by Tuesday.
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“The families of these dogs take the loss very seriously, they were like a member of the family, and we are investigating it thoroughly,” Nichols said.
The three dog kennels, painted in bright colors and resembling small houses, were clustered close together, about three and a half feet apart. The seven dogs that died were housed in two of the three kennels. The third was empty.
Owner Jack Gould, visibly shaken by the incident, said that an employee first noticed the fire around 6 a.m. and called the fire department before heading out to the area with a hose.
But, by that time, the fire had nearly burnt itself out, Nichols said, adding that it likely didn’t spread further because of a dense layer of fog and few nearby combustible materials.
By mid-morning Monday, staff members had reached all but one of the families whose dogs died. All were traveling at the time.
The staff also called the owners of the more than 50 other dogs staying at the facility to let them know that their animals were unhurt. None of those owners pulled their dogs from the kennel’s care, he said.
“We are all still pretty much in shock,” Gould said. A Cal Poly graduate with a 32-year career in law enforcement, he founded a mentoring program in the 1990s for troubled young men on the same 40-acre site that houses the Thousand Hills Pet Resort.
Gould said that there are people on the Buckley Road property 24 hours a day. Typically, dogs are checked on around 9 p.m. and then put into the kennels for the night. Then, between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. employees go out, feed the dogs breakfast and let them into large play yards.
The kennels, which have electrical outlets inside, sometimes have heating pads designed for dog kennels. Neither Cal Fire nor Gould knew if the kennels that burned had heating pads in them.
The fire caused an estimated $20,000 in damage. Gould said the business has insurance that will cover the loss.
Gould had hospice workers at the facility Monday morning talking with grieving staff members.
“Our main concern is the loss of the animals,” Gould said. “Some of them come so regularly that they are like family out here. It is just so very sad.”