Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Pet oxygen masks standard equipment for many firefighters

Nancee Schaffer of the Rutland Area Disaster Animal Response Team demonstrates an oxygen mask for pets on Maple, a sheperd mix dog belonging to Firefighter Will Berkovits, left, at the fire station in Clarendon, Vt.

Nancee Schaffer of the Rutland Area Disaster Animal Response Team demonstrates an oxygen mask for pets on Maple, a sheperd mix dog belonging to Firefighter Will Berkovits, left, at the fire station in Clarendon, Vt.

CLARENDON, Vt. – Fire helmet? Check. Gloves? Check. Axe? Check. Pet oxygen masks? Check.

Increasingly, little oxygen masks for pets are becoming standard equipment for firefighters. Hoping to save cats, dogs and other pets caught in house fires, animal advocacy groups and pet-products suppliers are equipping departments all over the country with them.

The cone-shaped plastic masks, which come in three sizes and fit snugly on snouts, can resuscitate animals suffering from smoke inhalation. They can be used on dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, even birds.

“In the past, we used regular air masks like the firefighters use. In a pinch, it works,” said Norman Flanders, fire chief in this small Vermont town, which was given a set of pet masks by a local animal welfare group Tuesday. “But these masks are designed specifically to fit over the muzzle of a cat or a dog.”

An estimated 60 million U.S. households have pets, but statistics on how many die in house fires are hard to come by. Frequently, house pets hide during a fire, making rescues difficult.

Exactly how pets have been saved with animal oxygen masks is unclear, too. But the fire department in Prospect, Conn., received two donated sets in 2004, and two days later used one to resuscitate a Yorkshire terrier pulled from a fire.

“He was wobbly and he had very shallow breathing,” said Fire Chief Robert Chatfield. “The owner held him and we got the mask on him and in about 2› minutes, he was fine.”

The masks were originally developed for use by veterinarians but have evolved into rescue tools over the past several years, according to Brandi Marks of Smiths Veterinary Medical PM Inc., of Waukesha, Wis., which distributes them.

More than 2,500 sets have been distributed by Best Friends Pet Care, a kennel company that set up a matching-donation campaign to buy the masks, which cost about $60 per three-mask set.

The campaign began after a firefighter told Best Friends employees of his frustration watching pets die, according to Debra Bennetts, a Best Friends spokeswoman.

H.E.L.P. Animals, an Orange City, Fla., nonprofit group, has also distributed the masks.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

Search site | Terms of service