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Dr. Nichole Danova, president and director of surgery at Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center (VREC), at 318 Northern Blvd. in South Abington Township, recently donated pet oxygen masks to area first responders in an event they called “Oxygen Kits for K-9’s and Kitties.”

“At VREC, we’ve had a number of distraught patients and clients come in after suffering a house fire,” explained Danova. “The vast majority of these patients come to us in the back of an ambulance, a police car, or from rescuers that were on the scene. The first responders would have questions and concerns about the pets such as ‘did we do everything right?’ or ‘is there something else we could have done?’ and in the conversation to follow we realized that a lot of these police officers or EMS or ambulances didn’t have the right supplies. Although they did a great job adapting human products to the animals they really needed some animal-specific equipment. The most basic solution for animal resuscitation is an oxygen mask.”

“There is a huge need for oxygen masks specific to animals,” agreed Michael Schuman at Commonwealth Health EMS. “With this product, we can save the lives of animals by administering oxygen during a very critical time when those patients need to evacuate smoke from their bodies.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association it is estimated that 40,000 pets die each year in fires, most succumbing to smoke inhalation. In many instances, emergency responders are not equipped to fully assist these animals because they lack specially designed pet oxygen masks and training. “Oxygen Kits for K-9’s and Kitties” is trying to change that.

Danova and her team at VREC recognized the need to raise awareness and are helping by donating the necessary supplies for animal resuscitation to more than 40 emergency, fire and rescue companies in our region including, but not limited to, Carbondale, Jefferson Township, Clarks Summit, Scranton, Hamlin and Jessup EMS, ambulance and first responders.

Danova believes in the importance of education. “Every year we have the class from Lackawanna College EMS students come to VREC to walk through the hospital and see the facility to understand what it is that we do, the role that they play and the relationship with us and the community for pets,” she said.

Here are the units that have either already received or are on the list to receive an oxygen mask kit: Archbald Ambulance, Avoca Ambulance, Black Diamond Ambulance, Blakely Ambulance, Chinchilla Hose Co., Clarks Summit Fire Co., Clifford Fire Co., Commonwealth Health EMS, Cottage Hose Co., Crystal Fire Hose Co., Dickson City Ambulance, Dingman Township EMS, Emergency Medical Services of Northeast Pennsylvania, Factoryville Fire Co., Greater Pittston Regional Ambulance, Greenfield Fire Co., Hamlin Fire & Rescue, Jefferson Township Ambulance, Jessup Hose Co. Ambulance, Justus Fire Co., Lackawaxen EMS, Moscow Fire Co., Pennsylvania Ambulance, Pittston Township Ambulance, Pocono Mountain Regional EMS and Scott Township Fire Co.

Ace, a border collie, receives oxygen in Chinchilla Hose Co. ambulance via a mask donated by Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center.