When humans are in need of emergency medical attention, local fire departments and emergency medical services are equipped to help, regardless of the situation.
But what if a dog needs cardiopulmonary resuscitation after being rescued from the water? Or if a cat is in need of oxygen after being carried from a burning house?
Bobby Silcott, animal control officer for Naples, Casco, Sebago, Baldwin and Denmark, has made it his mission that all rescue departments in Maine are equipped for such emergencies.
Since May 2009, Silcott has been raising money to purchase pet oxygen masks for nearly 50 area departments. These masks, referred to as POMs, are similar to human oxygen masks but are designed to fit snugly around an animal’s muzzle.
“Every EMT has a story of how they tried to modify a human mask,” Silcott said. “It doesn’t do what you need it to do.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated 40,000 pets die every year from smoke inhalation along, he said. These masks are providing emergency responders with the tool to prevent that, he added.
“Anytime you have to turn water onto someone’s home, it’s traumatic. If you can hand them little Fifi, their cat or bird or even a snake in one instance that we could save, that means everything to them,” Silcott said.
Recently, the Waterboro Fire Department used the smallest of the three POMs on a cat rescued from a fire.
“We’ve only used them a couple times,” Waterboro Fire Chief Matthew Bors said. “Because of the way the mask is constructed, it easily goes onto a face of the animal. It’s relatively simple and easy to use.”
Previously, Bors said emergency crews would try to fashion a mask, but the makeshift version never worked effectively.
“The pet population is pretty endeared to some people,” Bors said, and it helps the department to have the equipment on hand to save animals.
To fund the kits, including three different-sized masks, each costing about $75, Silcott has taken a number of approaches.
At The Kennel Shop in Windham, store manager Donna Lum said that the month of May was dedicated to a “Round-up for Charity” campaign. Cashiers would ask customers if they would like to round up to the nearest dollar of their order, and the spare change collected went directly to purchasing masks for Windham’s fire and rescue department.
Also, Invisible Fence of Southern Maine recently agreed to fund the purchase of 10 sets of POMs, equipping more local departments.
One of Silcott’s key efforts, however, is offering pet first aid courses around the state. He charges $40 for the four-hour course and said all the proceeds go to funding the purchase of more masks.
“He’s doing so much to help,” Lum said. “It’s amazing what he puts toward this project.”
She also took Silcott’s course and found it very informative and helpful.
“I feel very confident if there was ever an emergency to perform CPR on an animal,” Lum said, after what she learned during the course.
She said he taught participants the gamut, dressing a wound, tending to an animal with heat stroke and demonstrating CPR on a stuffed dog.
On top of everything, Lum said, Silcott also instructed people how to stabilize a situation until the pet could be brought to a veterinarian or emergency services arrived.
“It’s something we hope more people should be aware of,” she said.
Serving as an animal control officer for four years, and working as a member of Naples Fire & Rescue previously, Silcott said he has seen his fair share of scenarios. He said anything can happen when it comes to animals, and he hopes that equipping departments and educating people will help increase the successful pet rescue stories statewide.
Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]