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Date of Issue: February 09, 2006

Pets get own emergency oxygen masks

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West Manatee Firefighter-Paramedic John Stump and Lt. Tom Owen, along with arson dog Laurel and participant Forrest Gump, display the plaque honoring pets and their owners who donated to the Big Breath, and Bark oxygen mask program undertaken by the ManaTEEN Club. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy
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West Manatee Firefighter-Paramedic John Stump, left, demonstrates use of the pet oxygen mask with arson dog Laurel to WMFR Firefighter-Paramedic Buddy Brown and WMFR Lt. Tom Owen while the Islander newspaper owner's pet, Forrest "Goober" Gump, a contributor to the program, looks on at Station No. 1 in Holmes Beach.

Dogs and cats will have a much better chance of surviving smoke inhalation on the Island, thanks to teenagers at Manatee High School.

The West Manatee Fire and Rescue District has received oxygen masks designed specifically for pets through the efforts of the ManaTEEN Club, especially two sisters there.

Ashley and Alycia Bower headed a drive to raise money to buy canine and feline masks to outfit all 65 fire trucks in Manatee County. West Manatee's share in the pet-relief effort were delivered to the Island fire station Friday.

Along with the masks were plaques for each fire station honoring pet owners who donated to the program, and honoring and remembering their pets.

The masks come in three sizes: medium snout; long, large animal snout; and a smaller one for cats and small dogs. Animals rescued from fires with smoke inhalation will have oxygen through their own special masks from now on.

Smoke inhalation has been a major problem with pets as well as with people during fires, especially home fires, said Fire Chief Andy Price. Often a pet provides the main companionship and affection for seniors burned out, and a pet's death is a major catastrophe added to the trauma of fire.

The Bower sisters launched their "Big Breath, and Bark" drive within the ManaTEENs' program Pet Awareness With Seniors (PAWS), designed to provide seniors and low-income adults with pet food to help both people and pets, so they don't have to share the same food.