We consider pets to be part of the family – and thanks to animal-loving firefighter Neil Hoskin, every fire station in Cambridgeshire is now equipped with special animal oxygen masks.
The Smokey Paws masks are designed to help save the lives of four-legged, two-legged, and even no-legged friends.
Station and area commanders from across Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service have received special training on how to use the Smokey Paws animal oxygen masks, which are now available in fire stations across the county.
The Smokey Paws masks come in kits, worth £90 each, and can be used for a variety of animals from small to large including pets such as hamsters, snakes, dogs and cats to larger animals such as sheep and horses.
Neil, 47, who lives in Crowland, Lincolnshire, took on the project just over a year ago and even extended his retirement date to complete it – delivering his final training session at Papworth Fire Station last month.
The Dogsthorpe firefighter spent his last year with the Tactical Delivery Group, responsible for training crews in the use of the animal-friendly oxygen masks, that were donated to CFRS after it teamed up with Smokey Paws, a charity providing animal friendly first aid equipment to services across the UK.
Neil brought along his five-year-old Husky, Lexie, to training sessions to demonstrate to crews which restraints to use and how to put an animal mask onto a dog.
He also spoke about how to handle dangerous dogs and other animals as well as specific rescues he had been involved with.
Neil said prior to receiving the donations, firefighters had to use human oxygen masks which didn’t work as well and meant firefighters could get bitten by scared or aggressive animals when they came round.
“The benefit of having these masks is that it works better for the animals and helps to protect the firefighters too because if the animal comes round quicker than you expect then they act a bit like a muzzle, even though they are not designed to be used as a muzzle.”
He said masks could be used in numerous situations.
“They are not just for fires and smoke inhalation.
“They can be used to help revive an animal after blood loss, trauma, drowning, even heat exhaustion.
“All the reasons you would give oxygen to a human for, you would do the same for an animal.”
Lynn Carberry, Founder of Smokey Paws, said: “My husband and I started Smokey Paws to try and help fire services save pets.
“Where a human oxygen mask will give a pet around 10 per cent oxygen, these pet masks will give the pet 90 per cent oxygen.
“We were helped in our mission by great dedicated volunteers, like Neil, and members of the public to help us raise funds to donate the masks to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.
“We have enjoyed working with the Service and would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication to save every life they can.”