Local shelters wonder if they can afford new Illinois fire protection law

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Milan, Ill. (KWQC) - Illinois will require all animal shelters in the state to have sprinkler systems or install fire alarms that directly contact first responders.

Local shelters wonder how shelters across Illinois will afford new fire safety systems that the state will require in January 2020. (KWQC)

The state will be the first in the country to pass the kennel safety law.

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill on Wednesday in response to a fire in a West Chicago facility that killed 29 dogs in January.

Local shelters said while this fire system is great for safety reasons --- the state is not going to fund it.

The Quad City Animal Animal Welfare Center just recently had a fire at their shelter in May.

They said the safety feature that is now being required is what saved their animals.

“It was a Sunday and no one was around so it could’ve been really bad,” said Patti McRae, the Animal Animal Welfare Center’s Executive Director. “Having the alarm system really did save our animals.”

Their alarm system notified local first responders directly, which is one of the new law’s requirements for shelters that aren’t staffed overnight.

“It goes to a company that then calls the first responders and then I get a phone call,” said McRae.

Or kennel operators will at least have to have a sprinkler system.

However, some shelters like the Animal Aid Shelter in Moline said they can’t afford a fire system like that.

The shelter’s Executive Director Vicky Sanders said their shelter had a fire in 2012. At the time, she said the shelter was closed for its operating hours.

Sanders said they had smoke detectors, but not the kind that notifies first responders. Therefore, they didn’t find out about the fire until someone drove by their shelter.

By the time someone had noticed the smoke 11 cats had died.

McRae said there is a way for licensed non-profit shelters to get financial help if they can’t afford the initial cost of the new fire safety system.

“I would definitely go out and write a grant for it,” she said. “There are all kinds of different organizations you can write grants to.”

On top of the initial cost, there is also a monthly operating cost.

“That could be a struggle for some shelters or smaller boarding or kennel facilities,” said McRae.

Shelters that are not staffed at all times have to abide by this new law.

It will take effect on January 1, 2020.