On Tuesday morning, Loudoun County Department of Fire and Rescue firefighter Cat Ippolito practiced slipping an oxygen mask over a medium-sized, yellow-haired dog.
Loudoun County Anumal Control deputy chief Janette Reever, Blue Ridge Veterinarian Associates veterinarian Karen Iovino and her dog Yarah trained approximately 20 Loudoun County Fire and Rescue and Sterling Volunteer firefighters in the use of pet oxygen masks.
After collecting donations for Animal Care and Control’s trust fund, Reever purchased 20 sets of oxygen masks, small, medium and large. She donated the 20 sets of masks to Loudoun’s 20 fire houses.
"The trust fund money can only be used to improve the quality of life for animals," Reever said. "We thought the oxygen masks were really important to have."
The oxygen masks are important because they can dramatically increase the chance an animal will survive after inhaling smoke from a fire," she said.
Reever purchased the masks from a private company for $55 per set of three masks.
Currently, when firefighters rescue animals, like cats and dogs, they try to put human oxygen masks on them.
"They don’t create an adequate seal," she said. "They’re not that effective."
The pet oxygen masks are extremely effective, she added, as long as you can get them on.
IOVINO AND YARAH stood in front of a classroom of firefighters. The veterinarian showed fire and rescue workers how to carry a cat or dog out of a house and how to restrain it.
Iovino slipped a medium-sized oxygen mask over Yarah. She started swinging her head left to right. After Iovino restrained her, she was able to get the mask over her snout.
"Turn the oxygen up slowly," she said. "If you turn it up fast, they’ll jump back."
Ippolito found the class to be helpful.
"We understand how important animals can be to some people," she said. "I’m a pet owner myself. I love animals."
She said she has to rescue animals from burning houses a couple times a year.
"Obviously, we place human life above pets, but we try to rescue them when we can," she said. "A lot of times, they’re like the children in the family."
THE LOUDOUN COUNTY Fire and Rescue suggests pet owners purchase stickers from pet stores, informing firefighters of how many and what types of pets live inside.
"If you can’t tell us there are pets inside, we might see a sticker," she said.
Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Chief Joe Sullivan also suggested pet owners call the Fire and Rescue Department and inform them of their pet situation. Sullivan said this is especially important if pet owners have exotic animals or vicious dogs.
"The information will pop up on the computer screen when you call in," Sullivan said. "It is really easy and we’ll know what we’re getting ourselves into."
"It could save your pet’s life," Ippolito added.
Animal Control will hold pet oxygen mask training sessions at each of Loudoun's firestations through August and September.