An outreach for rescuing pets by a local veterinarian and her staff has caused several fire departments in the area to reach back.
Dr. Rebekah Frost of the Dunkirk Animal Clinic and Veterinary Surgical Assistant Kathy Raab have been busy donating free sets of pet oxygen recovery masks to area fire departments to keep on hand.
Raab and Dr. Frost were quoted in a Feb. 11 article in The OBSERVER on the importance of having masks that are specifically designed for pets. In recognition of April being National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, the doctor obtained 10 sets of the apparatus from HELP Animals Inc., a Florida-based vendor who donates part of the sales of the rescue masks to animal shelters. After sending out an interest letter to departments in the area, Frost received responses from at least six interested volunteer companies who wanted to add the masks to their inventory.
OBSERVER Photos by Ann Belcher
Top: Fire Chief Jeff Griewisch and his wife Colleen, representing the Silver Creek Fire Department, and their granddaughter Bailey pose as their Labrador Hayley models a donated pet oxygen mask given to the department by Dr. Rebekah Frost of the Dunkirk Animal Clinic.
A strong advocate for the use of the masks, Raab and her husband, Jerry, who is a fire chief for Fluvanna Fire Department, have displayed similar equipment at New York State Fire Chiefs Association conventions to spur interest across the state to help save animals' lives.
"We've had a fair response to them, some departments are really enthused about getting them, and depending on where you obtain them, they're not so horribly priced that you can't afford to stock them," Raab said.
She herself read about the use of the masks in Cat Fancy magazine article, and decided to pursue avenues to get them into local fire departments.
The masks are designed to provide vital first aid to a pet. The mask sets obtained by HELP Animals, Inc. feature side vents to allow for exhalation and escape of oxygen if the flow rate is too high for the animal. The masks are reusable and may be disinfected for further use, and feature a warranty program the departments can use.
Forestville Fire Department Squad Captain, Donna Mattoon happily accepted one set of masks for her department, noting she can recall at least two memorable emergencies involving pets during her rescue time.
"We had one house fire where one dog and one cat were saved, and our second and third graders at the elementary school actually did a penny drive so that we could get a set of masks, but that was quite awhile ago," she stated.
Mattoon teaches a local emergency medical technician certification course and admits that unfortunately not a lot of information is taught as a standard protocol to rescuers.
"It is definitely something we need to get out there and promote," stated Mattoon, who has three rescued dogs of her own.
"We do always stress however, people first and pets second so that you can better assist their rescue, and never to go back into a burning building," stated Carolyn Sheldon, Squadron Lieutenant for Forestville Fire Department.
Silver Creek Fire Department's newly-elected Fire Chief Jeff Griewisch, who has been an active member for 35 plus years, was also glad to receive a set of masks from Dunkirk Animal Clinic.
"We recently had a house fire on the corner of Jackson Street and Central that we could've used these masks for," stated Griewisch.
The fire chief noted that all of the dogs in the home at the time were rescued, but a neighboring department standing by at the scene could've provided support with the masks while the fire was being extinguished.
He also admitted that the masks haven't typically been promoted as a priority for departments to use.
"I know that they're starting to come into more departments now, and I did read the February 11 article about Firefighter and EMT Mike Munger donating a set of masks in Brocton. When Dr. Frost asked if we would be interested in receiving these, I told her 'We'd be delighted.' Pets are part of your family you have to treat them like your family."
In the past, Silver Creek has utilized what is typically known as a "non-rebreather blow-by" method, where a mask designed for a human is held close to an animal's face so that air can be blown towards them.
"These new masks will work fantastic," stated Griewisch.
He also stresses the importance of pet owners making responders aware of pets in a home. Window stickers can aid in that communication, but Griewisch added "If people are standing by waiting for our response, they should be telling us when we're on scene to look for animals and get them out. Even as early as when the call is reported, tell the dispatcher that there are animals inside, and let us know as soon as possible instead of waiting."
Dr. Frost noted she would like to set up a donation of masks again next April. Her office also carries handmade first aid kits which have basic staples such as: window stickers; refrigerator magnets with emergency contacts; emergency muzzling instructions; supplies such as gauze, tape, scissors, tweezers, tongue depressors and thermometers; leashes; dosage syringes; and first aid brochures. A complete list of other suggested items is included in the kit.
"I know even for me, having everything in one centralized place including who to contact for an emergency situation and what to do is a big help."
Proceeds of the sale of the first aid kits will go toward the clinic's Bigfoot Fund, which assists sick or injured stray, abandoned or disadvantaged animals.