Lifesaving Equipment for Pets Provided for Locals

Oxygen masks can be used on cats, dogs and small animals, including birds, ferrets and hamsters.

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    Banks the Pig from the Emma Zen Foundation demonstrates a pet oxygen mask. Read the full story here. (Published Friday, April 26, 2013)

    San Diego firefighters have new tools to save pets suffering from smoke inhalation.

    The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department has received 60 sets of pet oxygen masks. On Thursday, firefighters gathered at Fire Station 28 in Kearny Mesa and demonstrated how the masks work.

    “Pets have the same problems a human does when they’re in a fire and they get displaced by the smoke and oxygen,” said Fire Captain Harold Lemire. "It’s difficult to resuscitate an animal with the stuff that we use for humans."

    The Emma Zen Foundation donated the equipment. The masks come in three sizes, each specially designed to fit over an animal's snout. They can be used on cats, dogs and small animals, including birds, ferrets and hamsters.

    “You never know what people have in their backyards,” said Debra Jo Chiapuzio, President of the Emma Zen Foundation.

    The Anaheim-based non-profit hopes to outfit all Southern California fire departments with the masks by the end of the year. Chiapuzio says San Diego County was a priority.

    “Your fire season is coming, and you really have a lot of fires out here in San Diego,” she said. “So I think your county is extremely important to get these masks put into.”

    Each kit costs $75. The organization raises money through pet safety classes, raffles and private donations.

    The foundation is named after Emma Zen, a Labrador/Great Dane mix rescued from the Santiago Fire in 2007. Emma Zen was in San Diego Thursday to help demonstrate the equipment, along with Banks the potbelly pig. 

    Earlier this month, at least two cats were killed by smoke inhalation in a duplex fire in Lemon Grove. Five adults, two kids and two dogs survived.