An endeavor by the Sampson County Friends for Animals to outfit every fire department in Sampson County with life-saving oxygen masks for pets big and small has now been completed, as 19 sets of masks have been delivered to departments across the county.
“We have finally finished our Pet Oxygen Mask Project,” SCFFA past president Judy Shepherd announced this week. “The masks are specially designed for the muzzles of dogs and cats so that oxygen can be better administered to animals suffering smoke inhalation.”
It was a project that began last November, when SCFFA members became aware of the fact that the Clement Fire Department was the first station within Sampson County to receive a set of three pet oxygen masks (a set consists of small, medium and large masks for different size animals).
“We wanted to put them in fire departments, where they need to be,” said Shepherd. “That became the challenge, getting all the fire departments their set of masks. Being an animal-related group, we decided that this was a project that fit us very well and started soliciting donations for the purchase of the mask sets for the 19 remaining Sampson County fire departments.”
Each set costs $73 with shipping. Friends for Animals delivered 14 of the sets, while five other sets were specifically donated by individuals to departments in Turkey, Clinton main, Harrells, Ivanhoe and Halls — that necessitated close to $1,400 in funds.
Funds were raised in a variety of ways, whether through donations to SCFFA members, Clinton High Beta Club, or by those who fed the jar at SCFFA’s monthly Tractor Supply events. In March, Shepherd and others found that the Clinton-Sampson Rotary Club had also presented several sets to EMS director Ronald Bass to distribute to fire departments to use when pets are rescued from burning homes.
Even with efforts of Rotarians, Shepherd said she knew there was still a need for the masks to be spread out around the county.
“We said OK, we don’t want to duplicate efforts, but at the same time we need to make sure that each department gets a set,” Shepherd said. “It was mid-July when we collected enough to finish the project.”
Among those departments presented with sets of pet oxygen masks were Autryville, Clinton main, Clinton-Sampson Rescue, Garland, Halls, Harrells, Herring, Ivanhoe, Piney Grove, Plainview, Roseboro, Salemburg, Taylors Bridge and Turkey.
“As best as we can determine, every fire station has a set of masks to put on a truck,” said Shepherd. She noted there is one remaining set, because SCFFA was later notified that the Newton Grove Fire Department already had one.
Bass said he has distributed the eight sets of oxygen masks presented to him earlier this year to local volunteer fire departments and, while he was unaware of the efforts of Friends for Animals, said the devices they have donated would be a benefit to the county.
While some fire departments do not have rescue technician (RT) services, and thus do not have oxygen on trucks, in the case of a blaze, mutual aid with rescue agencies and other fire departments would ensure oxygen was available for the masks to be utilized.
“In the case of a structure fire, there would be an ambulance on the scene,” said Bass. “The animal would not go into the ambulance, but oxygen would be available from the rescue squads. It would save those pets trapped in a fire and rescued.”
With the purchase of the oxygen masks, Shepherd said, every local fire department is now supplied with the necessary equipment in case of an animal need, a device whose benefits are numerous. It provides a firefighter with a device that is most efficient to rescue animals, provide solace to a pet owner whose furry family member may direly need oxygen following an emergency situation — and, most importantly, the masks are the best alternative to saving that animal’s life in cases of smoke inhalation.
“It’s exceptionally important for the animals,” Shepherd said. “They’re specifically designed to be put on the muzzle of the animal. “It keeps responders from trying to adapt human makes to animals and it gets oxygen in the lungs right away where it needs to be.
“Hopefully they never have to be used,” she said. “The fact is, they are there if they are needed.”
If there is a Sampson County fire department without a set, SCFFA can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 910-564-3661, through the SCFFA website at www.scffainc.org, or P.O. Box 1, Clinton, N.C. 28329.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.