Fire houses across the country are reaping the benefits of animal oxygen recovery masks, designed to fit over a pet’s mouth and nose while delivering oxygen. These masks can be used on just about any animal from a snake to a Saint Bernard.
The masks, manufactured in New Zealand by McCulloch Medical and purchased from SurgiVet, Inc., have already saved the lives of scores of pets. Cities, and even entire states, nationwide are realizing the value of an animal life.
Daytona Beach, Fla., was the first city in the nation to be fully equipped with the masks and Delaware recently became the first state to carry the masks in every one of their fire stations.
H.E.L.P. Animals Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax deductible, nonprofit and all volunteer organization out of Orange City, Fla., has distributed thousands of masks since their formation in 2003. The acronym H.E.L.P may spell out Health Educate Love Protect but it also spells out their cause.
For this small group of women, what began in their hometown quickly moved across the county, then the state and eventually nationwide.
“As a group, we do not rescue, house, foster, picket for causes and hate breeders,” said Karen Clark, H.E.L.P Animals Inc. public relations officer. “And absolutely nothing political. We are not professional fundraisers.”
The recovery mask sets, which come complete with three different sizes, can be purchased by anyone from H.E.L.P Animals who agrees to donate them to a municipal rescue agency or charity.
Because H.E.L.P will not send the masks to any commercial business for profit in resale, they have a special pricing of $55 per mask set.
To date, H.E.L.P has distributed over 5,000 mask sets and about 150 large K9 masks for working dogs.
On top of the masks, H.E.L.P supplies donated medical supplies to licensed wildlife rehabbers and animals shelters. They also have a successful free spay and neuter program, low cost pet shot clinics and a service dog fund for those who can’t afford medical help for their service dogs.
Although support and feedback has been mostly positive, the organization has encountered some critics.
“I have run into a few hardliners, mostly non-pet owners, said Clark. “They used to say that the masks have to go though testing and they might be turned down.”
Clark uses NASA to sway critics. “I let them know that USAF/NASA Kennedy Space Center Ground Support has them,” said Clark. “They usually change their minds real quick.”
As for fire fighters, the donated masks are welcome, with many realizing their great potential, both for the animal lives and owner emotions.
The Coral Gables, Fla., Fire Department cites the heightened sense of smell in cats and dogs as a disadvantage during a fire. It’s this heightened sense that makes them even more vulnerable to the effects of smoke, fumes and toxic gases.
According to Coral Gables Fire Chief Richard Cook, “Treating pet patients quickly and effectively is key to their survival.”
Survival is the key word for pet owners across the country. The masks growing popularity indicate how important pets are to their owners today.
“There are many times when the pet is the only family that people have,” Clark said. “People will risk their own lives to go back in and get their loved ones. I mean all pets, not just cats and dogs.”
H.E.L.P Animal’s web site stresses the need for community, volunteer and individual involvement in the program. “Unfortunately, there is no government funding for these programs,” their mission statement says. “We will need public support to achieve our goals. Any donation large or small will be appreciated.”
This article was written by Lalinda De La Fuente, News Editor for Only for Pet Lovers