By Jason Musselman
On March 7 the Toulon Fire Department participated in a unique training event. Normally the men and women of the department train to keep our two legged friends and families safe, but now they are skilled in saving our four-legged pets as well.
Roger Bell, of Invisible Fence of Peoria & Bloomington, not only installs pet containment systems, but he also advocates for the health of domesticated pets that may need assistance through “Project Breathe.”
“Project Breathe”, created by Invisible Fence, donates pet oxygen masks for their franchises to give to local fire departments at no cost. In all, Bell has donated about 70 kits across the Greater Peoria/Bloomington Metro Area to about 30 different departments.
Just about two months ago the Peoria Fire Department saved a dog from a house fire where nobody was home. Crews used the oxygen masks to give the dog fresh air, similar to what an EMT would do for a human.
After Bell displayed to the Toulon Fire Department personnel how to use the masks on his dog, veterinarian Dr. Justin Fehr and Macon Nalepka from the Wyoming Veterinary Service went over basic pet first aid, including CPR on dogs and how to take their vitals – something the crews are trained to do for humans, but differs vastly for dogs.
In addition, the crews learned signs and symptoms to look for in dogs and cats in the event of a house fire or other emergency situation. The fire crews would act as first responders until a veterinarian could arrive on scene.
The masks are reusable and come in three different sizes for various breeds of dogs and an assortment of household pets. They work off the same oxygen bottle the department carries normally.
Bell says their goal is to provide every fire department across the country with a kit and train them how to use it, but hope they never need to. If they do use one, all Invisible Fence asks for is a call to let them know how it worked and if it was a success.
To date, the program estimates they have saved 10,000 pets from fires and smoke inhalation through their donations.