Breathing life into pets caught in fires

Fundraiser launched to buy special oxygen masks designed to save the lives of dogs, cats and other animals rescued from fires.

A dog being treated with a specialized mask, of which Surrey fire crews have requested 30 for animal rescue.

More help for animals caught in house fires is on the way, as a fundraising group works to arm firefighters with special oxygen masks made specifically for dogs and cats.

It was May last year in Burnaby when eight dogs and two cats died in a house fire, despite the efforts of rescue crews to save them.

The homeowner was a dog trainer and firefighters were surprised by the number of animals at the home.

Elisha McCallum, spokesperson for Happy Dogs Legacy, said that tragedy sparked an initiative to arm all firefighters in B.C. with special oxygen masks that can save pets’ lives.

The masks are plastic and have a rubber dam that fits over the animal’s snout. McCallum said they work on any animal with a pointy nose.

Following the Burnaby fire, the group raised $40,000, which paid for 328 mask kits (each kit has three mask sizes), which run for about $100 each.

Now the group is fielding requests from other fire departments – including in Surrey – for more of the masks, which has sparked another fundraising campaign.

McCallum says Happy Dogs Legacy hopes to raise $15,000 for 100 additional sets of masks.

The rigs are a proven method of saving the lives of pets, McCallum said.

“There’s a number of incidents quite recently, around the province,” McCallum said Friday. “There was an incident in Port Moody about a week-and-a-half ago, where a mask was used to save a pet.”

There have also been well-publicized incidents in Abbotsford and Vancouver Island, where pets have been saved with the masks.

Surrey Asst. Fire Chief Mark Griffioen said he’s been exploring the idea of using the specialized masks for more than a year.

Typically, firefighters give animals oxygen by using “flow by” with a human mask, or trimming the mask so it fits on an animal.

Griffioen said he spoke with a veterinarian, who highly recommended the use of the modified masks.

That led to him asking for 30 of the masks from Happy Dogs Legacy and committing to put them to work.

Anyone looking to donate, or find out more, can visit www.happydogslegacy.com