Lexington County firefighters have new tools to help save the lives of pets rescued from burning buildings, thanks to a big donation from a group of veterinarians and a drive started by two women simply because they love animals.
South Carolina Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Care (SCVSEC) donated 36 oxygen kits specifically designed for pets to Lexington County Fire Services March 22. The masks could make the difference between life and death for animals.
“We have situations where first responders are trying to help the families in these homes and animals are part of the families,” said Dr. Tristan Weinkle of SCVSEC. He said firefighters without the special masks are forced into “trying to use the face masks they have for people,” which are often ineffective.
The donated masks are designed to use for dogs and cats and “anything with a snout, basically,” Weinkle said. He said the procedure for using them is the same as the masks firefighters are trained to use on people. “Using these masks is secondhand to them.”
Chief Bradley Cox of Lexington County Fire Services said he is very grateful for the donation, and understands how much pets mean to people.
“I can tell you my daughter is going back to save both kids and both Jack Russells” in the case of a fire, he said. He added that with budgets always tight at county agencies, he would likely never have been able to buy the masks. “When you compete for tax dollars, equipment such as this is not going to be high on the priority list.”
Every Lexington County fire truck will now be equipped with one of the pet oxygen kits. Cox said his team handles about 300 structure fires each year.
The donation from the SCVSEC began with a push from Mary Ellen Tobias and Nena Sinclair, founders of the Pet Oxygen Kit Project. The ladies, both animal lovers, launched the nonprofit with the goal of putting a kit on every fire truck in South Carolina. They have succeeded in the counties of Richland, Kershaw, Dorchester, Charleston, and now Lexington, and are making headway in others.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going to continue and get it all done,” Tobias said.
Weinkle said the ladies are an example of how much can be done by individuals. “If we each do a little bit, we can accomplish a lot.
More information on the Pet Oxygen Kit Project is available here.