Oxygen masks could help save pet lives in fires

2014-01-18T17:55:00Z 2014-01-18T23:12:06Z Oxygen masks could help save pet lives in firesSusan O’Leary Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 18, 2014 5:55 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Most animal lovers consider their pet dogs and cats cherished family members. Now Porter County pet owners can be confident their furry loved ones will have a better a chance to survive a home fire.

Holly Grunwell, founder of the nonprofit organization Supporting Northwest Indiana Animal Shelters and Rescues, is supplying Porter County fire departments with specially-made pet oxygen mask kits.

“There are 23 fire departments in Porter County,” said Grunwell, of Valparaiso. “By the time it’s all said and done, we’re going to make sure they all have at least one kit.”

Each $100 kit contains three sizes of pet masks and an instructional DVD in its own carrying bag with straps. Grunwell recruits individual and corporate sponsors to donate funds to purchase the masks for the fire stations. So far, she has raised enough to provide kits to the Porter Fire Department and the Washington and Morgan township fire departments.

Nearly 50,000 pets die in fires each year, said Rachael Jones, veterinarian and co-owner of Southlane Veterinary Hospital in Valparaiso, which has sponsored one kit.

“Firefighters do an honorable job of saving families and their pets, but sadly many animals die before they can be transported to a veterinary hospital after being rescued from fires,” said Jones. “If responders were able to provide a continuous source of fresh oxygen to pets suffering from smoke inhalation or shock, their chances of survival would be greatly improved.”

Jones said because firefighters are not allowed to use human equipment on animals, special pet oxygen masks are critical.

“And because most fire stations don't have the funding to purchase such pet-friendly and life-saving oxygen mask kits, the donation of this type of equipment is important and noteworthy,” said Jones.

Jay Craig, Porter’s deputy fire chief, said having the kit allows the department to provide greater service to the community.

“As a pet owner myself, I know that pets are an important part of our families,” said Craig. “This allows us to do our best to make the best of a bad situation. Having this gives us a greater chance to do a rescue or revive on a pet,” said Craig.

Grunwell said individuals or organizations who would like to donate funds for the masks, or fire department that would like to receive a kit can contact her at hollygrun@yahoo.com.

“This is something we can do to help prevent people from losing more than they have to,” said Grunwell. “If the fire departments are willing to accept this offer of help, then I certainly am game to give it.”

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