Each year, in the U.S., thousands of people lose their lives to fire. Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to hearing about these tragedies, but there is another tragedy that occurs in which we rarely hear about; it is the hundreds of thousands of cherished family pets who suffer injury or death due to smoke and flames.
Although firefighters and their heroic efforts attempt to save a pet’s life during a burning building, the damage a pet sustains from inhalation of smoke or carbon monoxide overwhelms many of the animals that often die en route to a veterinarian. If fire and rescue crews were able to provide life-saving equipment such as an oxygen mask for animal use as they do for humans more animals would be saved.
Thanks to a generous donation provided by Prince William SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals); firefighters will now have an opportunity to assist pets who are experiencing respiratory distress or failure due to a fire. “PWSPCA was looking for a specific way to donate funds to fire and rescue for acquiring an oxygen delivery system for animals,” states PWSPCA Representative Judy Haller. The organization contacted the Fire and Rescue Association inquiring about fire and rescue services and their interest in obtaining the pet oxygen mask. Upon reviewing their needs, it was determined that the devices would enhance the services provided to the community and the process was set in motion.
Prior to distribution, PWSPCA required approval from its Board of Directors, the Fire and Rescue Association, and Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Upon approval, PWSPCA purchased 42 of the WAG’N 02 FUR LIFE delivery system/devices (estimated value approximately $3,000). Each fire and rescue station will receive two kits, one primary and one backup kit. Firefighters will undergo training in the use and maintenance of the devices prior to placing the kits on fire and rescue apparatus.
The pet oxygen delivery devices work similar to equipment manufactured for humans suffering from smoke inhalation except this device is used solely for four-legged animals. The device has a cone shaped design with a rubber seal that creates a snug fit over the animal’s nose and mouth making the oxygen delivery more effective than oxygen masks designed for humans. The device will aid in the system-wide efforts of delivery of oxygen to pets in respiratory distress or respiratory failure, and minimize the number of animal fatalities that occur due to fire.
Today, there are approximately 1,700 fire departments in North America that have some type of pet oxygen delivery device. In Virginia, there are 24 fire departments with such equipment, including Fairfax, Arlington, Sterling, Chesterfield, Spotsylvania, and Stafford. Previously, in Prince William County, Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department was the sole company, within the fire and rescue system, that provided this device. Thanks to the local PWSPCA, the devices are now available throughout the county assisting firefighters in saving a pet’s life by reducing their chance of dying of respiratory distress or failure from a fire.