When fire strikes a home, the chance of any pets inside surviving is low. That’s because they tend to hide, which makes it difficult for firefighters to find and rescue them, according to Gulfport Fire Chief James Marenkovic.
So the donation of two animal oxygen-mask kits by the Invisible Fence company on Wednesday, July 12 was especially welcome by his department since they can help increase pet survival rates.
“We have to give them oxygen because they have a lot of smoke inhalation,” the chief said, noting that animals are more susceptible than humans because of their smaller lungs. “We’re trying to do everything we can to make them a little more viable to get them to the veterinarian.”
With the donation of the kits, each of the department’s four vehicles will now be able to carry oxygen masks for pets, he said.
“We were running low, so this couldn’t have come at a better time,” Marenkovic said.
The masks are part of a national donation program run by Knoxville, TN-based Invisible Fence, which sells electronic dog-fence systems.
“We’re all about dogs,” said Chuck Schobert, the company’s Florida representative who presented the kits accompanied by a 6-year-old mixed breed named Murphy. “We want to keep them safe and at home.”
Each kit includes three masks – small, medium and large. The masks fit over the mouth and nose of the animals and are hooked up to oxygen tanks via a plastic tube.
Marenkovic encouraged pet owners to display stickers at the entrance to their home notifying fire fighters of the number and species of pets inside. The stickers are free and can be picked up at the fire station any time.
During a fire, he said, residents should focus on getting all the people out of the home and let firefighters take care of the animals.
“I’d rather have the human get out than perish for the animal,” he said, adding that owners trying to rescue their pets can be overcome by smoke. Nor should they open the windows and doors to help the pets escape, he said, since that lets in more oxygen and further fuels the flames.
He said the best thing homeowners can do for everyone – humans and animals – is to take preventive action. That means having smoke detectors in the bedrooms and making sure to change the batteries when needed.
A major killer of pets in the summer is heat stroke resulting from being left in a car.
On April 28, for example, a police dog in the Sebastian, Florida, K-9 Unit was found dead in an officer’s cruiser after apparently being forgotten for hours there as temperatures rose into the upper 80s.
Information provided by the national “Beat the Heat, Check the Back Seat” campaign to save children indicates that even with the window cracked, temperatures inside a car can reach 125 degrees in minutes and that heat stroke deaths have occurred in cars in temperatures as low as 60 degrees.