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Durham City Fire Department Receives Pet Oxygen Masks

Firefighters in Durham will now be equipped to save more lives when they're called to rescue families from burning homes and apartments. Many survivors emerge distraught to find little can be done for their pets because of severe smoke inhalation. But now, every one of Durham's 16 fire stations will have kits containing oxygen masks to help resuscitate man's best friends.

The kits come in black zippered bags that contain several pieces of equipment that are necessary to revive pets. Caleb Fleshood is with Invisible Fence, the company that's donating the equipment to the fire department. At a ceremony earlier today, he opened the bags to show firefighters what's inside.

Caleb Fleshood: "We have three different sizes of masks here, depending on the animal needing to be resuscitated. And two universal oxygen tubes, that work with existing equipment"
Fleshood has brought his eight-month old terrier mix, Duffy, to demonstrate how the equipment works. He takes out a clear plastic mask shaped like a bell and fits it around the little dog's nose and mouth. Fleshhood says in most cases animals are already unconscious when the masks are put on.

Fleshood: "It's just a simple little process of sealing here over the face, the rubber seal allows for a good seal and allows the oxygen to be distributed to the pet's lungs, until they are resuscitated. "
If Duffy the terrier has an opinion about the masks, he's keeping it to himself. Fleshood knows why.

Fleshood: "He's had a few treats dropped in here to train him to like it. So he's a pretty good guy. "
Durham's not the only fire department to receive donations like this. Invisible Fence gave Chapel Hill-Carrboro the same equipment a couple of months ago. Across the country, it has become popular for companies and individuals to donate pet oxygen masks to firefighters.

Adam Goldfarb: "Fifteen or twenty years ago, it probably would have been unheard of, or would have seemed like a very odd idea. "

Adam Goldfarb is the director of Pet Care issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

Goldfarb: "But today it makes a lot of sense to a lot of people. So we're seeing more and more agencies who're getting these resources like oxygen masks to help take care of pets. "
The masks cost about sixty dollars apiece and public agencies don't usually pay for them. But Goldfarb says since two-thirds of American families these days have pets, many people consider the oxygen masks to be essential lifesaving equipment. Durham's fire chief, Bruce Pagan, says he's grateful for the contribution. The city previously owned only three pet oxygen mask kits.

Bruce Pagan: "Sometimes the animal may already be exposed too long, and even a pet mask may not help resuscitate that animal. But then there are other occasions where the animal may have been exposed just a minute or so. And that is an opportunity where we could possibly save that animal's life. "

Pagan thinks the masks will also help boost his firefighters' morale by giving them what they need to save families' pets.

Pagan: "I think it helps minimize that feeling of helplessness. Because you know you do experience that when you do the best you can to save a life and your best attempts are futile. I think that that goes to show we're doing the best we can with what we have. "
Pagan says he knows of firefighters who've used the smallest mask to try to save hamsters. Firefighter Shawn Walls, who owns three dogs, says it makes him happy to know that every fire station in the city will now have pet oxygen masks to use at the scene of a fire.

  Shawn Walls: "You're always willing to get everybody out, even the pets. You want them out. You want everybody out. You wanna be able to save the dog, cat, hamster as he said. "
Walls says with the new masks firefighters will now be able to do just that.

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