By Joe Johnson
Each year, it’s estimated more than 40,000 pets die in fires, most succumbing to smoke inhalation. The reality in most cases is that first responders lack the equipment to resuscitate and save these animals. Through a generous donation from Invisible Fence® and their Project Breathe™ Program, Athens-Clarke County Fire & Emergency Services received 8 pet oxygen masks. This was made possible by the forward-thinking and generous efforts of the Athens Area Humane Society. In January 2022, Cheryl McCormick, Ph.D., the Chief Executive Officer of Athens Area Humane Society applied for the grant on behalf of the fire department.
AAHS veterinarian Dr. Cook English states, “It is beyond exciting to add the capability to provide immediate reoxygenation safely and reliably to all the family members involved in residential fires here in Athens-Clarke County. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly half a million animals lose their homes and potentially suffer health consequences in these tragedies each year. We are thrilled to help coordinate the most cutting-edge safety protocols with Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services and thank them for their dedication to all of our citizens, both two- and four-legged."
After Cheryl’s meeting with the fire department administration, the need for these masks became apparent. Due to budget constraints, firefighters in the past had to rely on using pediatric oxygen masks made for humans to resuscitate pets that had inhaled smoke and toxic gases from house fires. Although we have been successful in many rescue efforts, this is not preferred when better-fitting pet masks are available. With these donated masks, firefighters responding to all areas of the county for structure fires will have an assortment of masks to assist pets of all sizes.
“We are beyond thankful for this donated equipment to better help us in our mission to protect lives and property”, says Battalion Chief Nate Moss. He continues, “This certainly also applies to the pets of the members of our community, which are an extension of their families.” For more information about this program, please visit this link.