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Donated oxygen masks could help St. Paul firefighters save pets' lives

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Every firetruck and ambulance in St. Paul will now be equipped with pet oxygen masks, thanks to a donation from Invisible Fence Brand's Project Breathe program.

The fire department announced the donation of 36 pet oxygen masks Tuesday, nearly two months after five dogs died in a house fire in St. Paul. Firefighters saved one dog in the fire by using a human oxygen mask.

"Unfortunately, our department has been very ill-prepared to resuscitate these pets very well, if at all," said St. Paul Assistant Fire Chief of Operations Jim Smith, according to the Pioneer Press.

The hope is that the masks will help the fire department resuscitate more pets that are rescued from burning homes, KSTP notes.

"Pets are family members and we want to do anything that we can to keep our family members safe," Andrea Murray, Invisible Fence Brand Twin Cities general manager, told the Pioneer Press says.

The number of pets that die in fires each year is not kept as a statistic, but Project Breathe estimates the number is between 40,000 and 150,000, with smoke inhalation as the main cause. That's why Project Breathe's goal is to provide every fire station in the U.S. and Canada with pet oxygen masks, according to its website.

Project Breathe has donated over 10,000 masks in total, which have saved over 120 pets nationwide, according to a March news release.

A pet oxygen mask kit comes with three sizes of masks for dogs and cats, and they're designed to fit better than masks made for people. The mask attaches to a hose, which is hooked up to a firefighter's oxygen tank, KARE 11 notes.

The retail value is $3,600, Project Breathe says.

In 2009, the Minneapolis Fire Department received 19 pet oxygen masks from Project Breathe, MPR News says.

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