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By The Associated Press
When a firefighter carries a pet from a burning home, the
rescued animal often isn't out of the woods. Many times the
jubilant moment turns to anguish when the dog or cat later dies
from smoke inhalation.
One problem: Long, mangy snouts make it difficult to fit oxygen
masks made for people over dogs' noses.
Now, a growing number of fire departments in Illinois and around
the country are using masks specially made for pets. The plastic,
cone-shaped masks, long used by veterinarians for anesthesia, have
a rubber ring that provides a tight seal, forcing pure oxygen into
canine and feline snouts.
Many firefighters say once humans are out of harm's way, they'll
do everything they can to save a family's beloved pet.
"Pets are an important part of people's families," said Tom
Krueger, medical officer for the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire
Protection District, 35 miles north of Chicago, which recently got
the masks. "Some people consider them like their kids."
Unless a home is engulfed in flames, "we're going in to get
'em," he said.
Fire departments in Antioch, Buffalo Grove and Wauconda also
acquired the special masks in recent months.
The general manager of the Waukesha, Wis.-based company that
makes the devices said sales have exploded this year. The company
sells the masks in sets of three: one for cats, one for small dogs
and one for big dogs.
"It has just kind of snowballed," said Jeff Baker, vice
president and general manager of Smiths Medical Veterinary
Division. He said the company has sold 1,500 sets over the last
year - more than the company has sold in the last 15 years.
Humane societies and businesses often raise money for
departments to buy the masks. Norwalk, Conn.-based Best Friends Pet
Care, a pet boarding and grooming company, has helped 60 fire
departments in 10 states buy the masks through its Cause for Paws
campaign, spokeswoman Deb Bennetts said.
Bennetts said firefighters without the devices have gone to
extreme measures to save pets from smoke inhalation - everything
from sticking the oxygen hose straight into the animal's nose to
"mouth-to-snout" resuscitation.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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