Muncie, Ind., pets and their owners can now breathe a little easier.
The Muncie Fire Department this week received three animal rescue oxygen mask kits through a donation from Invisible Fence of Anderson/Muncie, which will allow firefighters to administer oxygen to pets who are rescued from fires and suffering from smoke inhalation.
“That’s just as cool as can be,” Fire Chief Eddie Bell said of the donation. “It’s a situation where most pets, if you have them in a home, odds are they’re part of that family – and a very important part, at that.”
The donation of the oxygen mask kits – each of which contains a small, medium and large mask – is the result of Invisible Fence’s “Project Breathe” campaign that has seen about 10,000 pet oxygen masks donated to fire stations around the United States and Canada.
Paul Jarrett, owner of Invisible Fence of Anderson/Muncie, told The Star Press his company is making an effort beyond just keeping dogs safe within their own yards.
“We’re all about pet safety,” Jarrett said. “We’re all about making people more aware of their pets and how they behave.”
The donation of the masks was spearheaded locally by Melinda Shackelfurd, who said she learned about the “Project Breathe” campaign a couple years ago and has been trying to get the Muncie Fire Department involved ever since.
Shackelfurd said she was ecstatic when she learned both Invisible Fence and the Muncie Fire Department were on board with the project in recent weeks.
“I think it’s just awesome,” Shackelfurd said. “I think it’s fantastic a company can not only care about animals, but even donate, take the time and do presentations and donate to cities so they can have the masks for their first responders to administer.”
Shackelfurd brought her own rescued lab, Mo, into the downtown Muncie fire station for an oxygen mask demonstration Tuesday morning for Muncie firefighters. Jarrett told the crowd that the simplicity of the masks makes it a better alternative to attempting mouth-to-snout resuscitation on a dog or cat.
“What makes this extremely nice is that it is not a complicated process,” Jarrett said. “It just slides right over the snout, turn the oxygen tank to the right amount of oxygen, and that dog will come around within five minutes. It’s absolutely amazing to see.”
Also participating in the demonstration Tuesday morning was veterinarian Andy Fipp, who showed firefighters how to administer CPR to a pet if the oxygen from the masks isn’t immediately effective.
Invisible Fence estimates 40,000 to 150,000 pets die in fires each year, most of which succumb to smoke inhalation. Jarrett said as more pet oxygen masks reach firefighters, “those numbers are going to turn around.”
“I can’t wait for them to do their first call and pull out a cat or puppy – or a litter of puppies – and they’re able to get them all revived,” Jarrett said of the Muncie Fire Department’s new masks.
Officials also said they hoped the masks would prevent pet owners from running back into a burning building in an effort to save their missing pets.
Bell said this happens more than one might think in Muncie.
“There’s been times where people have said, `My baby’s inside; my baby’s inside,’ and guys are looking around, looking for a baby, and it’s not actually a human, it’s actually a pet,” Bell said. “Whether it’s a dog or a cat, people are just very attached to their pets, and a lot of times, they will go try to go back in to find their pets, and that’s the last thing we want. We don’t want them to go back into that kind of environment. That’s our job, and we’ll do what needs to be done.”
Bell – who has his own dog, Angel, at home – said he can certainly understand the passion of local pet owners, however.
“I know at my house, I might go before my dog goes, the way my wife feels about our pets,” Bell said with a smile.
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