Thanks to a “grassroots effort” led by Cat Care of Vinings — a feline veterinary hospital off Atlanta Road — the Smyrna Fire Department is set to receive six “supplemental oxygen masks” for each of its five fire houses, a total of 30 in all, said Roy Acree, deputy fire chief for Smyrna.
Representatives from Cat Care of Vinings met with fire department officials recently to present Fire Station 5 off Cooper Lake Road with the first three masks their campaign yielded.
“Hopefully, we never have to use it. But now we’re prepared as a department,” Acree said, noting as many as 100,000 pets die in fires every year.
The fundraiser had amassed $870 since it began more than a month ago.
Danielle Miller, practice manager at Cat Care of Vinings, said the practice used a website called GoFundMe — a website where people can donate money to different causes — to accept contributions she hopes will pay for all 30 pet masks.
Lisa and Chris Hansen, who live down the street from Fire Station 5, said they saw the fundraiser on social media pages and decided to purchase three of the masks — which cost $70 apiece — rather than simply give money.
“We felt like it was a good cause,” Lisa Hansen said.
The couple said they have a dog and a cat they hope never have a need for resuscitation with the masks they donated.
Dr. Michael Friedlander, a veterinarian who owns Cat Care of Vinings, said her staff noticed a need for oxygen masks during an open house at her practice.
At the event, Friedlander said she and her staff discovered there were “blank spots” in the fire department’s knowledge of pet rescue.
She said Miller soon came up with the idea for the fundraiser and began advertising the cause on the practice’s Facebook page; by the end of the first week, Friedlander said more than 200 people had shared the fundraiser with their friends.
“Pets don’t know what’s going on” in a fire, Friendlander said. “Between the heat and a lack of oxygen, they go into a panic.”
Friedlander said the animals’ fear can cause their breathing to become more shallow and rapid, decreasing their oxygen levels further.
Animals, like people, tend to go into “survival mode” in such situations, she said, becoming aggressive, disoriented or even unconscious if they remain in the area long enough.
But unlike people, pets don’t know a firefighter knocking at the door means they’re likely about to get rescued, Friedlander said.
“The hopelessness can overwhelm them,” Friedlander said.
The staff members at her practice, which has treated cats in the area for seven and a half years, are happy with the progress they have made toward their fundraising goal of $2,100, she said.
“We’re just thrilled to death.”
Dustin Davey, spokesman for the fire department, said people should not go back into burning buildings for their pets.
“Obviously, our recommendation is going to be for people to get out and alert us to the fact that there are pets in the residence,” Davey said.
He said whether fire fighters are able to rescue pets depends on the given situation, just as it does with any other type of rescue.
Friedlander said fire affects pets the same way it affects people.
She said oxygen depletion can be a major problem for cats and dogs that are trapped in a smoky house, just as it is for their owners.