One-hundred-and-thirty pet oxygen mask kits are being delivered to all Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department stations, a top official said.
During a demonstration event Wednesday at Station 64 in Temescal Canyon that was designed to showcase the masks, Chief John Hawkins said the department is “committed” to using the devices to save pet lives across the county.
The cone-shaped masks are used to deliver oxygen to pets rescued in fire or other hazardous incidents and have been donated to county stations by the Anaheim-based non-profit Emma Zen Foundation.
Debra Jo Chiapuzio, who spearheads the foundation, was at Station 64 Wednesday and said injured pets have a 25 percent greater chance of survival if they receive first aid before being transported to a veterinarian.
Chiapuzio said she is trained in pet first aid and CPR, which is why she became interested in the masks.
The kits are not being sold or distributed to the public, and instead are provided free of charge to fire and police departments via fundraising efforts.
Like human oxygen masks, the pet devices require an oxygen tank hook up like those carried on emergency vehicles. Each donated kit includes three different mask sizes to accommodate dogs, cats and other household pets of varying size. The mask fits over an animal’s muzzle. In dogs and cats, the mask closes the animal’s mouth and delivers oxygen through the nostrils.
Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department stations are receiving training materials with the kits, officials said Wednesday.
Five-year-old Emma Zen, a black Labrador Retriever owned by Chiapuzio, was on-hand Wednesday. She patiently played an injured pet as firefighters took instruction from Chiapuzio on how to use the device.
Chiapuzio said Emma Zen was a rescue who was found in the devastating Santiago Fire of 2007 that burned more than 28,000 acres in the canyon areas of Orange County.
“The foundation is named after her,” Chiapuzio said.
In addition to Riverside County, Chiapuzio said the pet oxygen mask kits have been distributed to fire agencies across Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, and the foundation has shipped kits to agencies as far away as Germany and Japan.
“It’s all done through donations,” she said, noting that the foundation raised more than $86,000 in 2012.
Chief Hawkins said he did not have statistics on how many pets perish annually due to smoke asphyxiation, but said if even one pet is saved as a result of the new masks, he will be happy.
“I will be carrying one in my vehicle,” he said.