Knoxville (WVLT) - More than 60 million American families have at least one pet.
Most of us think of our pets as a member of the family.
Often those four-legged family members are the first to fall victim to a house fire, either because they couldn't get out of the house, or couldn't be resuscitated.
But thanks to a special donation today pets in Knox County now have some special protection.
The images touched our hearts when in the early morning hours of May 23rd, we watched as rural metro paramedics worked feverishly to save the life of Zoey, a cat who had been caught in a house fire.
Like many animals, Zoey hid in the house and when firefighters finally found her, she was suffering from smoke inhalation.
At the time, all paramedics had at their disposal were oxygen masks designed for humans.
"Up to today, we were equipped with the wrong equipment. We did not have oxygen masks to fit these animals, so unfortunately, we were not giving them their best chance of resuscitation," says Vicki Cheesman, K.F.D Master Firefighter.
An average of 400-thousand pets are killed in house fires every year.
Petsafe decided they wanted to do something to improve their chances and today donated 33 pet oxygen mask kits, one for every fire and rural metro station in knox county, at a cost of $2,300.
"That many pets were dying every year in fires due to smoke inhalation, because they hide and it's the first thing they do," says Laurie McNair, Radio Systems Human Resources.
Firefighters say this donation has the potential to save countless human lives, too because many pet owners try to go back in a burning home to save their pet.
They say this donation should be a reassurance to pet owners that firefighters have their animals' safety in mind too.
"Once they get outside, they realize they haven't gotten their pet out. That impulse to go back in and save them is so strong sometimes it overcomes their better judgement. And that can be a real problem for them, because they're not equipped to go inside a house that's on fire," says WIlliam Baty, K.F.D Fire Chief.
Zoey was lucky, she recoved from her injuries.
Tuesday's donation will give other animals the same chance at nine lives.
Each pet oxygen mask kit contains a large and small canine mask and a feline mask.
Tuesday's Petsafe donation to Knox County, may become a model for others counties in East Tennessee.
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