By M.K. Luther -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Volunteer emergency services in the town and Warren County just became a little more pet-friendly.
The Shawnee Kennel Club of Berryville donated 20 sets of pet oxygen masks on Tuesday to the county's emergency fire and rescue services at the Company 10 Fire House in North Warren County.
Kennel club member Linda Noll and her son, James, 14, of Winchester, brought along their black Labrador, Max, and rottweiler, Paris, so members of the fire company and trained emergency technicians could test and begin training with the snout-sized masks.
The approximately 40-member AKC-registered Shawnee Kennel Club serves the Northern Shenandoah Valley, as well as parts of West Virginia, and works on a community service project each year in addition to participating in dog shows.
"We try to do a community project every year and this seemed like a really cool idea," Noll said. "Especially when we found out the fire company did not have the masks."
Noll said the kennel club has spent thousands of dollars over the past few years outfitting regional volunteer fire departments and emergency services with these masks to help provide pets and small animals with a fighting chance if they are involved in a life-threatening situation.
The oxygen mask sets cost about $70 each and contain three mask sizes -- small, medium and large -- to fit large and medium-size dog breeds, cats and other smaller house pets.
Noll said the masks cannot aid emergency services personnel in resuscitating an unconscious animal, but can help treat for smoke inhalation.
"It just gives them one more chance," Noll said.
Warren County Fire and Rescue Capt. Wayne Dodson said the sets will be divided among the various fire companies throughout the town and county so all ambulances will have pet oxygen masks on board. The fire company has had large animal rescue training, such as horses, in preparation for barn or outdoor structure fires, but has never had access to equipment for house pets before, Dodson said.
House pets generally will try to move far away from the source of a fire and often hide instead of seeking escape from a residence, Dodson said, increasing the risk of severe and lasting damage from the smoke.
Saving lives is the fire department's main priority, and Dodson advised homeowners to make emergency services personnel aware of a pet's presence.
"Obviously, we want to try to get your pets out," Dodson said. "Let incoming responders know that there are pets in the house."