It’s 2 a.m. and you are jolted awake by the sound of explosions and screaming. Before you have time to understand what has just happened, a cloud of black smoke envelops the room and obscures your vision. As you try to make your escape, bright flames are spreading from floor to ceiling.
Although you want to save all of your 8 dogs, you’re only able to to scoop up one. You realize at that moment that if you try to save all of your dogs, you will become engulfed by the flames.
When you finally find your way to the front door to meet the fire department, you stop to scream your dogs’ names hoping they will answer your call. Instead they remain inside, too scared to move, too scared to run for their lives.
Just as you’re about to lose hope, the local fire rescue team charges into your home to rescue your dogs. They immediately get to work resuscitating your dogs using the pet oxygen masks, compliments of Project Breathe, a program responsible for saving the lives of numerous pets including yours. All but one of your pets are saved.
Chris Carney, whose experience is summarized above, was a victim of a house fire this past March and is grateful his fire department was able to use the pet oxygen masks to save his dogs’ lives.
“I try to save dogs [by fostering those who need homes], but that night Project Breathe and Gainesville Fire Rescue saved mine,” stated Chris. “People ask me how I’ve been able to cope with so much loss and the great difficulty that followed. I tell them it’s not so bad, I have my dogs.”
The roots of Project Breathe were anchored in 2007 when the Radio Systems Corporation (RSC), parent company of the Invisible Fence Brand, made a donation to the local fire department in Traverse City, MI.
“When we heard about RSC making a donation we knew this was something we wanted to embrace and support,” said Laura Wright, Director of Marketing, Invisible Fence Brand. “Our dealers immediately embraced the idea of helping pets and their families by partnering with local fire departments to provide the necessary tools they need to save more pets suffering from smoke inhalation following house fires.”
While we all know fires are dangerous for humans, few of us stop to consider incidents like the one experienced by Carney. “The U.S. Fire Administration does not keep an official statistic of the number of pets that die each year as a result of fires, but industry web sites have cited an estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year— most from smoke inhalation,” stated Laura.
Although Project Breathe began on a corporate level, local dealers have taken the initiative to partner with state veterinary associations and local fire departments to educate others on the importance and impact of immediate oxygen to a pet in distress. “Oxygen is the mainstay of treatment for smoke inhalation and the quicker oxygen can be administered, the more likely an animal will survive,” explained Laura.
Just recently, a local Invisible Fence dealer in Rochester, NY donated over 37 pet oxygen mask kits (which include small, medium and large oxygen masks) to Rochester Rural Metro, a leading provider of private ambulance and fire protection services to cities, counties and healthcare systems nationwide.
“Invisible Fence has done a good job of bringing community awareness to the problem of house fires and how it affects pets in our community across the nation— that pets suffer from house fires just as much as humans do” stated Rochester Rural Metro Public Information Officer, LaShay Harris.
According to Casey Weiderhold, Invisible Fence Brand Coordinator of Upstate New York, rescue organizations like Rural Metro are proud to participate in Project Breathe, which has helped save the lives of numerous pets over the past five years. “Before having our masks, the firefighters didn’t have any specific protocol or equipment to help them rescue a pet suffering from smoke inhalation,” explained Casey. “They made up what they could as they went along and just hoped for the best.”
According to the Project Breathe Program Fact Sheet the masks are shaped to fit on an animal’s snout in order to give a proper flow of oxygen. By using an oxygen mask designed specifically for pets, it allows first responders to provide life-saving support until veterinary care can be obtained.
Along with oxygen masks equipped specifically for dogs, participants of Project Breathe receive the training necessary to maximize their effectiveness. “They’re going to teach each medic or paramedic how to use the device, how much oxygen should be delivered, how to properly put the device on the pet’s face and then talk about the different signs of a pet that’s in stress”, stated LaShay. “They’re also going to teach some very basic skills on pet CPR and pet first aid.”
In addition to saving pets suffering from smoke inhalation, the pet oxygen masks have been used in ice/lake rescues, as well as in extreme heat conditions where animals need to be revived with oxygen.
People who wish to support Project Breathe may visit www.invisiblefence.com/02to make a donation. Fire departments and other rescue organizations that would like to request kits are also encouraged to visit the same website.
“A pet really is a member of the family,” stated Casey. “It’s not just an animal in the house. You love them, you care about them. When donating to Project Breathe you’re helping to protect that relationship. If all of your possessions are lost in a fire and if you have a dog or a cat, it makes a big difference to help you get through those hard times.”
Written By Christine White