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Fire crews to receive oxygen masks for pets

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

State fire instructor Brian Pendell demonstrates a life-saving pet oxygen mask on his dog Quint at the Cortlandville Fire Department in this file photo.

A goal to have pet oxygen masks in all fire departments in Cortland County and beyond will soon come to fruition after the Cortlandville Fire Department raised money to buy 32 of them to distribute next month.

Cortlandville Assistant Fire Chief Brian Pendell said he and Capt. Rob Derksen of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department plan a training day in early October for fire departments across the county. Pendell’s goal is to have kits of the three mask sizes and the bag valves in every fire department in the county and neighboring counties, along with all ambulances, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office and the Cortland City Police Department. Pendell said the goal was to get 50 masks, costing around $5,000.

“Thirty-two will saturate the region pretty well,” he said.

He bought 32 so far from Invisible Fence of the Finger Lakes at a discounted price after fundraising through a GoFundMe page and other donations, raising $2,300.

“It just gives us another tool in our lifesaving capabilities,” Pendell said.

Each department will receive a mask and will be trained by the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York of East Syracuse. The veterinary center is the same one that helped after a dog was caught in a fire on June 22 in Cortlandville, Pendell said. The dog did not survive. It is one of the reasons Pendell began raising money to get more pet oxygen masks.

During the fire, the department used one pet oxygen mask kit that had been donated. Then a picture of the medics and officers using the mask on the dog went viral, leading to Pendell’s and Cortlandville Fire Commissioner Kevin Whitney’s phones being filled with questions of where to get one.

The masks can also be used on other animals. Like human oxygen masks, the dog masks allow for oxygen tanks to be hooked up and bag valves that allow someone to manually pump oxygen into the mask.

For Pendell, the cause is personal — he’s a dog owner. But he also said that when there are fires there is usually a family pet involved.

“Sadly, the outcome is not usually favorable,” Pendell said.

Derksen said officers also deal with situations like a dog being hit by a car or shot.

He would like to see the sheriff’s office get the masks because it has two canine units that could benefit from them.

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