Friday, August 6, 2010

Pet safety is object of fire department gifts

Wag'N O2 Fur Life Program in The News
Special Writer

MIDDLEBORO —A fire can destroy a home in the space of a night, turning a lifetime of memories into ash. Family pets too can be taken, trapped inside of a burning house. However, a recent donation to the Middleboro and Lakeville fire departments will give some pets a fighting chance.

Pet oxygen masks work a lot like their human equivalents, helping get oxygen to someone who may be having trouble breathing because they inhaled too much smoke or carbon dioxide. In a fire, most deaths are caused by inhaling smoke or toxic gasses, so getting pure air to the afflicted can be life or death in an emergency.
"It's just a little different shape to fit a snout," Middleboro Fire Chief Lance Benjamino said.
That shape is important for getting a good fit over a pet's nose and mouth according to Wag'N Enterprises, which runs the 02 Fur Life Program that helps provide masks and training for first responders and pet owners. The principles of operation are the same, so firefighters already familiar with masks for humans don't need much additional instruction.

Since its inception in 2008, the O2 Fur Life Program has provided more than 190 Fire Departments across the United States and Canada with oxygen masks and "Pet Oxygen Masks on Board" decals for their stations and vehicles. "We're quickly finding out just how great of a need this is," explains Ines de Pablo, Chief Wag'N Officer. "Dryer fires, furnace fires, pets knocking candles over with their tails, you name it, fires are started because of it. We were shocked to find that most fire departments aren't equipped to save your pet's life in an emergency. These pet oxygen masks can be used on dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, hamsters, alpacas, wolves and many more species."

Money for the pet oxygen masks was provided by Lakeville-based K. Trucking & Sons Inc.
To keep firefighters from having to use the mask, there are a few pet fire safety tips you should follow according to the American Kennel Club.

First, you should include pets in your emergency planning and include them in any rehearsals. Know where your pets are at different times during the day and the best way to get them out. Also consider where your pet will stay if your house is uninhabitable after a fire. Also, have a disaster kit for your pet with a supply of food, treats, water, medical records and addition identification.

Second, consider giving your pet a way to escape on its own like a pet door leading to the outside. Many animals also perish in fires because they are kept in crates or cages at night, so consider alternate arrangements where possible. If a pet must be kept confined, a sticker in a window indicating that a pet is inside will inform first responders to be on the lookout for pets.

Finally, the best protection for your pet is to follow general fire safety guidelines. Make sure your smoke detectors are working, do not leave any open flames unattended and regularly review and rehearse your emergency plan. Keep in mind that you can't be there for your pet if you can't get to safety yourself. Chief Benjamino notes that many people can become trapped or injured in fires looking for their animals in a panic.
"Obviously our first priority is to get the people to safety," he said.

For many pet owners, it can be a hard calculation to accept. Pets are often considered members of the family and not doing everything you can to help them is hard. But the best thing you can do is tell the first responders about the pet and where it might be. While the first priority will always be human safety, firefighters can't rescue what they don't know about.
In addition to pet oxygen masks, Chief Benjamino said that the department was looking at purchasing a special harness for rescuing horses. In the past few years there have been several incidents in Plymouth County where horses were trapped in fires, to rescue the trapped horse takes specialized equipment and can add hours to a response while special equipment is brought in and then set up.
To learn more about Pet Oxygen Masks visit For more information about Wag'N Enterprises, visit

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