If your doggie is not feeling well and perhaps breathing shallowly, please don’t call.
However if Fido is caught in a fire and unconscious from smoke inhalation, the New Haven Fire Department now just might be able to save its life.
That news emerged at a press conference Thursday morning at City Hall convened by the mayor and Fire Chief John Alston.
Its purpose was to announce and show — but not demonstrate in action — 16 kits containing oxygen masks specifically designed to revive dogs overcome by smoke inhalation in fires.
The Canine Company, based in Wilton, has contributed the masks to the department — 16 so that one mask kit can ride on each of the department’s 16 pieces of front-line equipment.
The mask kits are good to go, with a simple explanatory sheet, and they come in small, medium, and large sizes, Alston explained. You fit the mask over the snout of the animal, measure the amount of oxygen flow required, and then attach to an oxygen source.
Alston said that in his 31-year career as a firefighter in Jersey City he’ saw the canine masks successfully revive an animal perhaps ten to 15 times. Three or four times, the animal did not live.
Five other municipalities in the state carry the masks, he said. A larger protocol — including training of the officers to perform general animal resuscitation — is in the works, but will not be implemented until the fall. However, the masks will be riding on the fire apparatus as early as next week, Alston said.
The chief was at pains to point out that the masks are intended for use in fire situations only. “We get 30,000 EMS [emergency medical service] calls. We cannot make this a separate call for pet rescue,” he cautioned.
The sets, which come with masks in small, medium, and large size, are designed specifically for dogs, not cats or other kinds of animals. However in an emergency, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to prevent a firefighter from applying the mask, let’s say, to a cat in need, or a rabbit.
Alston said the contributed masks — each sells for $90 — are a hit with the rank and file, many of whom own pets. The Board of Alders approved receipt of the gift in May. The masks, added Alston, are “an additional tool to deliver as life-savers, even to the furry ones.”
A television reporter at the press conference queried the chief whether he thinks there might be a feline protest, since the masks are for dogs only.
“As a cat owner, I would hope not,” Alston replied.
The mayor, who praised the initiative, noted that 150,00 pets die in home fires each year. Instincts often save the animals from flames, but the smoke kills them.
The brief training for use of the mask — and the more extensive training in general animal resuscitation scheduled for later this year — will be done by video.