Throughout his career with the Tacoma Fire Department, Mike Newhouse has used oxygen masks to resuscitate not just humans, but dogs, cats, birds — even a boa constrictor.
“That was not comfortable,” said Newhouse, who is a medical services officer. The snake lived, he added.
The pet rescue part of Tacoma firefighters’ jobs is about to get easier, thanks to a donation of 24 pet oxygen mask kits from the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council, which is enough to equip every company in the department, Newhouse said.
“We’ve worked on animals many times. We had an animal fatality last week, I believe,” he said. “If we don’t have any people to work on, obviously if we have the staffing, people are very attached to their pets. We make every effort we can — if they can be resuscitated or helped in any way, we make every effort to do that as a priority once we know there’s no human danger.”
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Venus Dergan, a board member on the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council, said she brought the idea to the board after seeing a story on social media about a program that donates pet oxygen masks to fire departments and first responders.
The council purchased 24 kits for a total of $1,920, Dergan said. Each kit comes with small, medium and large masks that are adjustable to fit onto an animal’s snout or face.
“My neighbor’s house burned down four or five years ago and two dogs survived, but one died, and they had to use people resuscitator masks — but they said they don’t fit; a lot of oxygen escapes,” Dergan said. “We want to support our first responders. The fire department puts their lives out on the line all the time.”
The department has four existing pet oxygen masks, all donated by the West End Neighborhood Council, Newhouse said.
The neighborhood council will present the masks to the fire department at the council’s meeting Wednesday evening.
“It’s something we wouldn’t readily obtain on our own because they’re infrequently used and the cost associated with that, and so we have typically used the equipment we have for human beings on pets,” Newhouse said. “But these are specifically designed for animals, so they’re much more utile.”