'Project Breathe' donates pet oxygen masks

Area pets can breathe easier now that many fire departments are equipped with oxygen masks designed for animals of all shapes and sizes.

Most recently, the Des Plaines Fire Department received a donation of four kits, each of which contain masks in small, medium and large sizes.

The masks, which are shaped to fit an animal's snout, were donated by Invisible Fence Inc. They are intended for when an animal is part of a fire and needs resuscitation.

"Being able to help them and resuscitate them is a very good thing," said Des Plaines Division Chief Pete Dyer.

A demonstration took place Wednesday morning where Ozzie, a 4-year-old Airedale named after Ozzie Guillen, donned a mask. Firefighters and engineers were able to try putting the mask on him.

The kits, which are each valued at around $60, have even been used to revive animals such as gerbils and snakes, according to Invisible Fence Community Outreach Specialist Christina Szmurlo.

"We're able to spend a little extra money to help out the community," said Szmurlo of the company's donations.

Szmurlo also said that in the three years since the company began distributing the masks, 19 pets were reported saved by them. About 90 kits have been distributed around the Chicago area. West Chicago will be receiving some on Friday.

Dyer said that oftentimes an animal is already dead by the time firefighters get to them because they will hide when a fire occurs. He also said that saving people is a priority, and the animals come after that.

He said that this presents an opportunity to save another life.

"Hopefully we never have to use them," said Dyer.

The masks can be used with a standard oxygen tank or with a Bag Valve mask.

For more information on the program or to request a kit for a fire department, visit

Ozzie gets fitted with an oxygen mask as Des Plaines firefighter/paramedic Sam Foster. right, and engineer Jeff Gove practice with new equipment to help them save pets at fires. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer