Firefighters receive oxygen masks for pets

by Carrie Rodovich Times Correspondent Photos by Eddie Quinones, The Times

The Lake Hills Fire Department has another tool to help rescue pets, thanks to the donation of a pet oxygen mask.

The donation of the mask was made by Invisible Fence of Northwest Indiana, the first donation the company has made to local fire departments.

Justin O'Brien, owner of Invisible Fence of Northwest Indiana, said he hopes it is the first of many he makes. The donation is part of the franchise's Project Breathe, which hopes to equip every fire department in the United States and Canada with pet oxygen masks. So far, the company has donated more than 11,500 pet oxygen masks around the country.

We are hoping to get the word out to fire departments that these are available, and get even more requests for donations,O'Brien said.

The kit comes with three sizes of masks, which can be used on different sizes of dogs and cats. The seals on the masks are also removable, making them even more versatile, O'Brien said.

Tuesday night, firefighters got hands-on training on how to use the oxygen masks and provide other lifesaving techniques in a workshop taught by Dr. Lisa Booth, a veterinarian at Vale Park Animal Hospital in Valparaiso.

Booth travels around the area teaching police and fire departments proper pet rescue and resuscitation techniques. Her nonprofit organization, Kits for K9s, has donated about 250 pet first aid kits to police departments during the last two years.

Booth said statistics show 80 percent of pet owners will go back into a burning building to try to rescue their animals, making it even more important to have emergency workers trained how to safely remove animals from danger and treat them once they have been rescued.

Lake Hills Fire Department EMS Director Alex Belligio said having oxygen masks designed for animals is important, because human masks do not provide a proper seal.

Having the oxygen masks also provides a constant supply of oxygen while administering CPR to an animal, he said.

"This should help a lot," he said.

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