Newton County vet student raises funds to buy pet oxygen masks

Covington Fire Department firefighters are shown here with Dr. Beth McElhenny and Petey. Looking on is Emily Wright and her dog Ellie, who inspired the project.

Covington Fire Department firefighters are shown here with Dr. Beth McElhenny and Petey. Looking on is Emily Wright and her dog Ellie, who inspired the project.


Newton County Fire Service firefighters welcome the additional equipment of 10 02 Fur Life Kits which contain oxygen masks in three sizes for use when family pets suffer smoke inhalation. Demonstrating how to use the masks is Petey and Emily Wright and looking on is Dr. Beth McElhenny of Oak Hill Animal Hospital. - Special phtos

COVINGTON -- The terrible fires in the western U.S. over the summer inspired a Newton County resident to make a difference in the safety of pets. Emily Wright launched a fundraiser to purchase oxygen masks for pets and donate them to the Newton County Fire Service and the Covington Fire Department.

A Georgia State University student who will transfer to the University of Georgia in the spring as an animal science major with the ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian, Wright said as she heard of the devastation the wildfires left in their wake, she began wondering about the animals.

"I also began thinking of how a wildfire or house fire could affect my 6-year-old Papillon, Ellie. I decided to check with our local fire department to see if they carried pet oxygen masks, a device I had read about that helped some animals affected by the Colorado fires," she said. "When I learned that the fire department didn't have this equipment, I knew I could help. With the support of Oak Hill Animal Hospital and Dr. Beth McElhenny matching my donations and helping spread animal fire safety information, the Papillon Project came to life."

Wright, along with matching funds from McElhenny, raised $1,200 -- enough to buy 10 02 Fur Life Kits for NCFS and six for the Covington Fire Department.

"So often we forget about our pets, which are very much a part of someone's family. This project and donation from Emily Wright and Dr. McElhenny from Oak Hill Animal Hospital will have a direct impact on those other very important family members, our pets," said NCFS Chief Kevin O'Brien. "Community involvement like Emily has demonstrated has a great impact on our service and Newton County Fire is grateful for her contribution and commitment to our success."

Covington Fire Chief John McNeil was also grateful for the donation.

"We know that family pets are valuable members of many households in the city. Thanks to Ms. Wright and Dr. McElhenny, we are now equipped with oxygen masks that can assist us in the resuscitation of a family pet in the event of smoke inhalation due to a fire in the home," he said. "Their partnership in providing the Covington Fire Department with these pet oxygen masks is awesome and greatly appreciated."

Each 02 Fur Life Kit is reusable and contains three masks for small, medium and large pets to be used on dogs or cats. It also contains three oxygen air tubes, a bag for storage, instructions showing how to perform CPR on dogs and cats and a "pet oxygen masks on board" decal for display on fire trucks.

Wright said she'd like to thank everyone who helped with the project and helped her meet her goal.

"We had one particularly large donation from Fantana Farm and Kennel, a boarding facility off Ga. Highway 81 in Newton County. They're dog lovers, too, and heard about the project and wanted to help," she said. "And a special thank you to Dr. McElhenny for being open and letting me raise funds and for matching the final total."

McElhenny said she was excited about the opportunity to support the project.

"I think it is a great way to give something back to the community and possibly help some pets we see here as patients," McElhenny said. "You never know when a disaster like a house fire might affect you and your pets. If we can help save even one with the oxygen masks, it will have been worth the effort."