IFD praised for effort to save animals at fires

Project Breathe program recognized

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Fire Department on Saturday was awarded because of its work to save the lives of animals injured during fires.

IFD received the Professional Excellence Through Service, or PETS Award, for its use of the Project Breathe Mask.

The Indianapolis Veterinary Emergency Center presents the award to individuals or organizations that it believes exude "community service, dedication, love and commitment to animals of all shapes and sizes," IFD Capt. Rita Burris said.

IFD began using pet oxygen masks in 2010.

"The ability to save animals from the harmful and too often deadly effects of smoke inhalation was of concern, and IFD was reliant on using products designed for oxygen delivery to humans," Burris said.

IFD did not have budgetary funding to purchase animal masks, but Brad Bennett, owner of Invisible Fence, donated 60 mask kits so that one could be at each IFD station and at several Indianapolis EMS ambulances.

"On the day of the donation, IFD firefighters and EMTs were trained on how to properly administer oxygen to an animal and instructed on how to treat animals during an emergency by Invisible Fence trainer Julie Chase," Burris said.

A mask provided by Project Breathe was used in May at a fire in the 4100 block of North Emerson Avenue. Firefighters were able to revive Mandy, a 6-year-old poodle.

That effort was widely recognized on social media. A posting about it on the RTV6 Facebook wall  was seen by more than 4 million people.

It is estimated that between 50,000 to 150,000 animals die because of smoke inhalation each year.

Invisible Fence started the Project Breathe program in 2007.

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