Animal welfare groups like the ASPCA applaud the effort in Ohio, recognizing that although there are clear guidelines with regard to the emergency treatment of people, it's far more vague for pets. "This legislation will clarify what an Emergency Medical Technician or other medical professionals may do to stabilize an injured animal until it can be treated by a veterinarian. This bill can serve to help prevent not only the loss of companion animals, but service animals such as seeing-eye dogs and police K-9 units," Vicki Deisner, Midwest legislative director for the ASPCA, told The Dodo.
Some counties in the U.S. already recognize that pets not only need, but deserve, care from emergency services. Manatee County, Florida, is one of those regions.
"A few years ago we had a service organization donate animal oxygen masks for all fire departments to carry," Lee Whitehurst, deputy chief of the East Manatee Fire Rescue District, told The Dodo.
Whitehurst says the donation spawned a major effort by the local fire department to care for pets who are injured in fires or car accidents when the department is called to a scene. Manatee County has 40 fire trucks and now "every fire truck in East Manatee County carries oxygen masks for dogs," Whitehurst says. "In fact, there are three sizes for canines. So we can provide oxygen to all size dogs in a fire." (Whitehurst explains that because cats don't have snouts, they can actually be administered human oxygen masks.)
"On the fire side," Whitehurst says, "the most important thing we can do for an animal if it has smoke inhalation is to provide oxygen."
And although the department, equipment-wise, is really only armed with oxygen masks, "there are common sense things we can do," says Whitehurst. "Quite honestly, we will focus on the human patient first, but if we can deal with the animal and, say, it is shot and there is bleeding, that requires the same science as if the animal were a person." However, adds Whitehurst, "doggy CPR is different than human CPR, and there needs to be training on that."
Dr. Kiko Bracker, an emergency veterinarian at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, says that veterinarians are obviously trained to deal with animals in the event of a life-threatening emergency. But, "If the alternative to veterinary CPR is to do nothing, however, then first responders should perform the CPR that they have been trained in," she told The Dodo.
Manatee County also works closely with an emergency pet ambulance to transport the animals from the scene of an accident or fire to a local emergency hospital.