Giving breath of life to Fido

For years, local firefighters have relied on human oxygen masks when they try to save household pets pulled from a burning building or house.

Recently, the Seymour Fire Department received an air resuscitation kit fit more properly for dog snouts.

“In my career, I’ve had many opportunities to use something like this if we would have had it,” Fire Chief Brad Lucas said. “We’ve actually had to carry a lot of dogs out of fires.”

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Lucas said the $75 kit was given to the department for free through Invisible Fence of South Central Indiana’s Project Breathe, a program to put pet oxygen masks in every fire station in the U.S. and Canada.

Each kit has three mask sizes — one for a small dog under 20 pounds, one for a medium dog 20 to 55 pounds and another for a dog more than 55 pounds. The smallest one also can be used for cats.

“We realize humans are the first priority; but in many cases, pets can be saved if firefighters have the right equipment,” said Ed Hoyt, director of Invisible Fence in a news release.

Lucas said just recently firefighters were called to fires where pets were involved.

One time, Lucas said, three or four dachshunds were pulled from a residence with heavy smoke, and the dogs were given oxygen from a human mask and taken to the vet. Some of those dogs, however, didn’t survive.

“I think something like that might have saved some of them,” he said

The danger is smoke inhalation, which can lead to the pet becoming unconsciousness. Lucas said animals usually try to hide instead of escape. That’s why the air devices are needed to revive them with oxygen before they can be taken to the vet.

Seymour firefighter/EMT Mark Gillespy said the devices also can be used in other emergency situations such as when an animal is hit by a car. He said firefighters previously would use masks for people that would be difficult to put on an animal. The new equipment allows for a tight seal around the masks to enclose the animal’s mouth.

“You can put it right over the dog’s snout, and it’s getting 100 percent oxygen into its mouth,” Gillespy said.

Lucas said he knows how important pets can be to a person and that’s why he said this is a great opportunity to have the new masks alongside the other medical equipment on the trucks.

“A lot of times, I’ve heard people say, ‘My baby is in there, my baby is in there.’ You have to ask them, ‘Is it your baby or is it your pet?’ Because to some people, it is their baby,” he said. “We hope we don’t have to use it, but I’m sure we will.”

Mick Spray, operating manager of Invisible Fence in South Central Indiana, said the company’s project has donated 11,500 oxygen masks to fire stations so far. About 120 pets have been saved by the masks so far, including a cat on April 1 in St. Paul, Minnesota, according to the news release.

Pull Quote

“In my career, I’ve had many opportunities to use something like this if we would have had it. We’ve actually had to carry a lot of dogs out of fires.”

Seymour Fire Chief Brad Lucas, on special oxygen masks for dogs

At a glance

Other fire departments can request a device by visiting invisiblefence.com/O2.