Pet Oxygen Masks

Community outreach effort saves lives of family pets
By Rachel Bonilla, November 2008, Updated June 2021

When Appleton, Wis., resident and Alderman Richard Thompson saw a photograph of a local firefighter giving mouth-to-snout resuscitation to a cat rescued from a house fire, he thought of his own pets.

“A pet is family,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to lose Maggie, my Collie, or Lucy, my Tabby cat, to a fire, carbon monoxide poisoning or Lord lord knows what else.”

Inspired by the photograph, Thompson initiated a program in which rescuers carry oxygen masks designed for animals.

And it was just like the animal-loving community to rush to the rescue. All of the money needed to pay for each $49  the masks  came from unsolicited donations, and mask sets were distributed to each of the six local fire stations and the Appleton Police Department K-9 unit. “It was something to see,” said Thompson. “There was no organized solicitation effort. People and community groups just read or heard about the program and stepped up to the plate.”


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The cone-shaped masks, which, which come in sets of three sizes (sized for large canine, small canine and feline), were designed by Richard McCulloch and his crew at McCulloch Medical of New Zealand, which manufactures masks for veterinary use; they are distributed in the U.S. by SurgiVet. By and large, community campaigns such as the one in Appleton are responsible for the purchase and distribution of the masks to their local fire and rescue stations. In another example, the Wilmington Kennel Club, Inc., of Delaware just donated sets to fire stations in New Castle County and the City of Wilmington. They purchased the masks from HELP Animals, Inc., of Florida, a small nonprofit that has teamed up with SurgiVet to help spread this initiative. distributed to each of the six local fire stations and the Appleton Police Department K-9 unit.

And the movement is indeed growing; firefighters in more than 150 cities and towns nationwide are now equipped with pet masks, allowing pet “parents” to breathe a little easier.



Photograph: SurgiVet/Smiths Medical MDPM