BRADENTON -- A 3-year-old Ridgeback mix named Murphy lay on the floor Thursday afternoon inside the Bradenton Fire Department Central Station. A pet oxygen mask was placed over the dog's mouth.
Murphy was just fine -- this was a demonstration. However, the mask used on him can help save pets' lives during a fire.
Invisible Fence of the Gulf Coast, which serves Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, donated three pet oxygen-mask kits to Bradenton firefighters in a brief ceremony. Invisible Fence Brand is a Tennessee-based company centered on pet-containment technology with dealers worldwide, including Sarasota-based Invisible Fence of the Gulf Coast.
The donation is part of Invisible Fence Brand's Project Breathe program, which helps to better-equip fire departments across North America to save pets from smoke inhalation. The company website indicates it has donated more than 10,000 masks to fire stations.
"This is good. This is huge for us," said Bradenton Fire Chief Charles Edwards, who received the donations from Mark Traynor, president of Invisible Fence of the Gulf Coast.
Edwards said his department has begun to use pet masks more often.
"Before we used to kind of improvise and maybe use a cup and run oxygen through it or something," Edwards said. "Now with something like this, it's quick, it's right there."
Traynor said there's a big community of pet lovers in Florida.
"I'll be frank. We could do more, as in firefighters need more of these things," he said. "There needs to be more awareness. We're doing well, but we can always give out more of these kits."
Each kit comes with three masks -- small, medium and large. Also included are tubes to hook up to firefighter oxygen tanks.
Jennifer Ross, marketing coordinator for Tampa-based Southern Pet Containment -- distributor of Invisible Fence Brand for Florida -- was also present at the donation.
"With the increasing number of families owning pets, fires come up unfortunately way too often and sometimes we can't get our pets out," she said. "Smoke inhalation actually hurts pets just as much as us, so these masks are to help revive them and help get clean oxygen into their lungs and save their lives."
A few months ago, Bradenton firefighter-emergency medical technician Thomas Ferrett and fellow firefighters rushed to a structure fire and were told a pet was inside. Ferrett found the dog and turned him over to an outside crew who revived him with an oxygen mask.
It was Ferrett's first pet rescue.
"I know how people think of their pets as their family. Some people, that's all they have," Ferrett said. "I just treated him like a person, got him out and kind of felt sad -- thought he was already passed ... but then they got him back."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.