2006-10-12 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

...by Joanne Anderson

October is Fire Prevention month with reminders to practice escape drills and check smoke detector batteries. Pets can be fire victims too. Most of us consider our pets family and include them in exit plans, but people usually know enough to leave when a smoke alarm goes off, where pets tend to panic and hide.

In 2005 there were over 40,000 animal deaths resulting from house fires, compared to 4,000 human deaths. Fire fighters will go to great lengths to save pets from succumbing to smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide, and have resorted to mouth-to- snout res u s c i t a t i o n . Now there's an alternative invention distributed by a few remarkable volunteers.

Thanks to donations and the hard work of a small Florida g r a s s r o o t s group, many fire departments nationwide have been equipped with specially designed pet resuscitation kits. Each cone shaped mask, adapted from ones traditionally used for anesthesia, seals tightly around the pet's nose and connects by a tube to an oxygen tank. For a multiple pet emergency, the mask can be attached to a flexible air (ambu) bag. The reusable mask (and that is a big plus) comes in 3 sizes. The plastic diaphragm is pliable to fit the contours of the pet's snout. Think about it: pet faces vary much more than people's. Birds and hamsters can be placed directly inside the masks to receive 100% oxygen.

"Benji"- longhaired cat is shown "Benji"- longhaired cat is shown Without these masks, reviving has been hit or miss. Regular children's oxygen masks are rigid and do not fit animals snuggly, although rescue workers have tried squeezing in the edges. This can cause a "blow by" where much of the air goes down the sides. Pet recovery oxygen masks were developed in 1997 by Richard McCulloch of New Zealand who also invented several breathing devices for foals and farm animals, and the Breath of Life(r) Resuscitator for humans used by first responders. Presently the pet masks are marketed by SurgiVet of Wisconsin which only sells to municipalities and non-profits.

Pet masks were virtually unknown in the US until 2003 when the Daytona area volunteers of HELP Animals, Inc. got involved. June Johnson saw a rescue on Animal Planet, and wanted to protect her own cat. Her group of about a dozen dedicated dynamos, already promoted wildlife and pet rescues, repairs to shelters, spay/neuter assistance and low cost vaccine clinics by organizing yard/ bake sales and car washes. They also held a motorcycle run to pay for a paralyzed man's service dog's state of the art surgery. A NASCAR driver flew the specialist to Florida.

"Phoophie"- Pomeranian "Phoophie"- Pomeranian HELP decided to fundraise to supply pet masks to Volusia County's fire stations, police K-9 corps and ambulances. They didn't stop there. They provided masks for the EMS, fire and canine unit at the Kennedy Space Center. Soon Daytona Beach became the first city to be fully equipped. In 2005 a Lab, Rottie, and Poodle overcome in a fire were rescued with the masks. Ironically, nearby a mask also saved a 12 year old Dalmatian, the quintessential fire dog, who got her head stuck in a plastic donut bag. When the HELP ladies realized that distribution was the obstacle, they gradually expanded their reach to 45 states. With only humble headquarters, over $40,000 worth of masks has been delivered this year alone. As Cheryl Crozier says: "The warehouse is the room off my bedroom, the packaging area is the table after dinner."

Here's how it works: HELP, a 501 (c) (3), mails sets of masks from SurgiVet all over the US. They charge their cost- a set of 3 for $55- plus shipping, but do NOT make a profit; it winds up costing them. Orders come in from fire departments, service dog groups, and all sorts of donors. NYC received 3 sets as a tribute to a 92 year old fireman. The CFA (Cat Fanciers Assoc) just bought $15,000 worth. After this week's cat show at the Garden, these masks are slated to go to rescue units in Texas, Florida, and California for areas that are known to have fires and floods. The Wilmington Kennel Club ordered enough for 30 fire departments. Right away the devices saved several cats in a house fire. Organizer Cheryl Costello's goal is to make the nation's first state, Delaware, the first state completely outfitted. Locally, New Hyde Park FD has masks given in memory of Precious, a beloved Sheltie.

Some other LI departments like W. Sayville, Huntington, and Wading River already received pet resuscitators. Karen Clark of HELP mentioned that in gratitude, Syosset Fire Dept. will get masks because HELP was featured on Dr. Greenfield's Family Pet, and Melville will also, because Melvillebased Henry Schein donates veterinary supplies to their charitable events. West Babylon is expecting 3 sets as a gift of the Saur family. Babylon Fire Chief Richie Krollage was quite receptive to the idea, but the Village does nots have any yet. He told me the biggest pet problem was about 20 years ago when the Copper Kettle burned down. Chief Roy Gross of Suffolk SPCA said that they would love to have masks, but want to see that all the fire departments have them first. The SPCA's MASH (mobile hospital) could use masks to protect search and rescue dogs.

You can help pets and owners breathe easier by donating pet masks to fire departments and ambulance squads. This is a wonderful community service project for scouts and schools; a touching memorial to a person or pet; a unique holiday gift in honor of a friend (who has everything).Gifts to the rescue unit of your choice via HELP are tax deductible, and can be anonymous or acknowledged with certificates. To order pet resuscitators: contact HELP at 386-747-0598; 386-479- 9700 or at www.helpanimalsinc.org.

This week "Benji" is appearing at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset. Don't be fooled by Hollywood. This Benji #991 is a neutered cat- a magnificent, longhaired Maine Coon type who relaxes quickly when out of his cage. "Phoophie" ##981 is a young female Pomeranian who seems to prefer people food. She would also prefer a breed experienced home. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder site.

Females: a pair of fawn purebred Boxers #1001/1002, one cropped, one with natural ears; "Kelly" #860- a mature gold Shepherd mix.

Male: "Jolting Joe" #893- last week's poster white Shepherd mix; an older, coated Chihuahua #930.

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