A campaign to save the lives of pets in house fires has had an overwhelming response in Shropshire.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service will now be only the second brigade in the UK to have pet oxygen masks available for any house fire attended by firefighters.
A Telford firefighter, dog charities and pet organisations have all contributed to the campaign, launched only last month, and collected a total of 15 pet oxygen masks for use on county fire appliances.
It all began with a charity walk last month in Ellesmere organised by Hectors Greyhound Rescue which rehomes greyhounds in Shropshire, Cheshire and North Wales.
While Louise Fletcher, a firefighter on Blue Watch in Telford, raised £550 after giving up alcohol in a sponsored “Dry April” for the Smokey Paws charity which provides the oxygen therapy kits.
“This specially designed pet rescue equipment can help revive animals if the worst happens. It gives them a chance of survival and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has kindly agreed to the put the equipment on fire appliances.”
Happy Tails Dog Spa in Faraday Drive, Bridgnorth bought two masks for Bridgnorth and Cleobury Mortimer fire stations and Haygate Vets Centre in Wellington have bought two more. Pets At Home is supplying four further masks.
Martin Huckle, Watch Manager at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, said they were only the second fire and rescue service in the UK to have a pet oxygen mask available for any house fire attended by firefighters.
“It started only last month as a charity walk which raised money for two masks and it has just taken off so well. The masks are very useful to help revive animals suffering from smoke inhalation.”
Amy Stewart, of Happy Tails, said: “I hope other counties see what Shropshire is doing then hopefully the campaign will spread and every brigade will have the oxygen masks.”
Fred Brown, of Hectors Greyhounds, said he is running a market stall decked with bunting on Saturday (May 7) at Oswestry market to raise more money for Oswestry Fire Station.
Haygate vet Sarah Wellstead added: “We want to support this worthwhile cause. It is close to our hearts.”
Dogs, cats and other small animals including hamsters and pet birds caught up in fires have been revived by firefighters using oxygen masks designed for humans.
But pet sized masks, costing up to £90, are made in three sizes and fit an animal’s snout better than a human oxygen mask to give a better chance of survival, said Brian Lockyear of Smoky Paws, campaigning to ensure every UK fire appliance carries one.
The masks are used in some fire stations abroad and Devon and Somerset is the first in the UK to trial the masks on all their fire appliances.
The campaign has the backing of a pet lover whose dog and cat both died of smoke inhalation in a recent house fire in Birmingham.
Ina Fuller, of St Pauls Road, Bordesley Heath, who lost Pepper, a 17-year-old cat and Boots, a one-year-old Shi Tzu, said: “Anything that will give a pet a chance of surviving has got to be good.”
Crew Manager Andy Huckle said: “We did try to revive them both using a human oxygen mask. It was worth trying.”
Firefighters in Derbyshire successfully revived a budgie by giving it oxygen after a pet shop fire 18 months ago.
The public can pledge more funds via Crowdfunding.justgiving.com/oxygenmasksforpets
For more information, go to www.smokeypaws.co.uk
Top Image: Telford firefighter Louise Fletcher with pet Chihuahua, named Cloud, and the pet oxygen mask.