Broward County, Florida's Fire Department Now Carries Oxygen Masks For Animals

COOPER CITY ? Maddie, a 10-year-old black Labrador, had no use for the oxygen mask placed on her nose. But it could come in handy if she ever gets caught in a house fire.

On Wednesday, Maddie came to Fire-Rescue Station 28 on Stirling Road to model one of the special oxygen masks recently purchased by the Broward Sheriff's Office to give assistance to animals suffering from smoke inhalation and other life-threatening injuries.

"This is just another tool we're giving the men and women of Broward County [Fire-Rescue] to do their job better," Sheriff Ken Jenne said.

Jenne said the masks, which will be onboard all fire rescue trucks, dramatically increase an animal's chance to survive.

The oxygen masks already are being used in Palm Beach, Brevard and Seminole counties, said Todd Le Duc, the county's assistant fire chief.

"It's greatly needed in any community," said Cooper City commissioner Debby Eisinger. "A pet is a part of the family. I have two dogs, and I'm very attached to them."

Broward Sheriff's Office bought 28 masks, which cost about $60 each, with a grant from Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, a nonprofit organization based in Fort Lauderdale. They come in three sizes -- small, medium and large.

"The animal can be close to dying, but with oxygen administration they can be revived," said Diego Rebora, a Cooper City paramedic.

Like humans, animals understand, have the ability to suffer and the desire to survive, said Heather Lischin, managing director of the animal rights foundation.

"We're confident that countless animals' lives will be saved through our donation," said Lischin.

Her group, which has 4,000 members statewide, educates the public about animals and advocates for their protection through legislations. She said it also operates a mobile clinic, which provides free spaying and neutering to pets from low-income families.

Capt. David Erdman, the county's EMS quality manager, remembered retrofitting an oxygen mask made for humans to resuscitate a cat rescued from a house fire eight years ago.

"It was hard to do because the equipment just didn't fit," Erdman said. "This is going to give us a better chance of success."