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> Donated oxygen masks may save local pets' lives
The donation is part of "Project Breathe™" by Invisible Fence® Brand which aims to equip every fire station in Canada, the United States and the U.K with pet oxygen masks.
Donated oxygen masks may save local pets' lives
"These specialty masks make such a difference in whether an animal's life can be saved."
BUNNELL -- More animals die prematurely from smoke inhalation in house fires than for any other reason, officials said, but a donation of specialty air masks may help prevent that from happening in Flagler County.
"We've had to use Dixie cups or regular oxygen masks in the past," said Flagler County Fire Rescue Chief Don Petito.
Dean Gatz, owner of Invisible Fence of Volusia and Flagler counties, made a donation Tuesday of nine sets of specialty masks to Petito and his crew. Each set is equipped with small-, medium- and large-sized masks, as well as tubing for each so they can be used simultaneously.
Makeshift masks are better than nothing, Petito said. But the animals being treated for smoke inhalation that way couldn't exhale carbon dioxide and oxygen could leak out between an animal's face and the sides of a human mask, which is not designed for a narrow snout, officials said.
"I've seen these used on every type of animal from dogs and cats to lizards and birds," said Jennifer Way, a spokeswoman for Invisible Fence, which launched its "Project Breathe" program about five years ago. "These specialty masks make such a difference in whether an animal's life can be saved."
A push was started in April to get the oxygen masks to fire-fighting agencies in Florida, but the local donation was delayed because of the numerous wildfires being battled over the summer.
"We were a little busy then," Petito said of the fires that consumed thousands of acres in Flagler County.
Gatz said his interest in the oxygen masks was piqued after a house fire in Gainesville last spring in which the first masks donated in Florida in 2008 were used to save the lives of several dogs living in a foster home.
"The guy's name was Chris Carney and the story was a real tear-jerker," Gatz said. "They were able to save like six or seven dogs because of these masks."
Way said the number of pets that die in fires is not an official statistic kept by the U.S. Fire Administration. But he said it's estimated that somewhere between 40,000 and 150,000 animals die in fires each year.
Invisible Fence has donated 9,500 sets of masks nationwide, Way said, saving the lives of at least 70 pets.
"These animals die because of the inability to deliver oxygen to them," she said while stroking her dog, Zorro, used to demonstrate the proper fit and features of the masks.
Flagler County's engines and ambulances will all be equipped with the masks and laminated instruction cards. Palm Coast and Flagler Beach fire departments also use the pet masks.
"Hopefully we won't have to use them," he said. "But we'll be ready if we do."