Cedar Rapids firefighters are hoping new pet oxygen masks will save the lives of both pets and people. The masks were donated Tuesday by the Cedar Rapids Invisible Fence company.

Fire Department spokesman Greg Buelow says firefighters have had to use equipment made for humans to revive pets caught in a fire — but these masks are specially designed for animals.

He says the mask goes over the snout, or mouth and nose of a dog, and there are different masks for cats and for smaller dogs, which will improve the delivery of oxygen to the animals. Buelow says the masks can help save pets, but he says they also hope it keeps people from taking chances.

Buelow say the number one reason people go back into a burning house is to get a pet that’s still inside. He says they want to let pet owners know firefighters will do their best to rescue the animal, and have a chance to revive them with this equipment. Buelow says fire safety courses in the schools show the need to reinforce the importance of getting out of burning home, even if a pet is inside.

He says they ask elementary kids if they would go back inside a burning home to get their homework, and they scream “no.” He says they also say no when asked if they would go back in for a $100 bill. But Buelow says when they ask kids if they would go back in a burning home to get a pet dog or cat, they don’t respond. “It kind of gets to you, and it’s scary, because you know how much that pet must mean to them, and they don’t immediately blurt out ‘no’, they wouldn’t immediately go back in,” Buelow says.

Buelow says there many examples of adults risking their own lives to save pets. Buelow says a woman suffered first and second degree burns about a year and a half ago when she went back into a burning house to get her cat. The cat turned out to be already out and hiding under a neighbor’s deck. He says these new masks will hopefully let kids and adults know they can get out of their homes and there’s a chance firefighters can save pets who were left behind.

Buelow says there’s one estimate that some 540,000 pets die each year in fires nationwide. Beulow says as spokesperson for the fire department he knows of 20 to 30 animals who died in fires last year in Cedar Rapids, as most American households have pets and many have multiple pets. Trent Donels, owner of Invisible Fence of Cedar Rapids, presented the devices to the fire department and they will now be available on all trucks responding to fires.

The photo above is courtesy of the CR. Fire Department,  it shows EMS Chief Curtis Hopper and firefighter Sean Beard demonstrating a pet oxygen mask on a Golden Retriever.