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East Meadow Girl Scouts aim to save pets from house fires

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Corinne Rufolo, Kate and Emily Verdon and Megan Hand, all members of Girl Scout Troop 1050 in East Meadow, believe that no family should lose a beloved pet in a house fire.

“We didn’t realize how many pets die each year from smoke inhalation,” Emily said. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, roughly 40,000 pets die in residential fires each year, mostly due to smoke inhalation.

Pets cannot always be revived with the use of oxygen masks, and not all fire departments are equipped with specialized masks designed to fit their faces or snouts. The girls, all eighth-graders at Woodland Middle School, dedicated their Silver Award project to the problem. For the past two years they have been raising money to purchase pet oxygen masks for local fire departments.

The Silver Award is the highest honor an eighth-grade Girl Scout can earn, and requires the completion of a community service project. While the East Meadow F.D. has pet oxygen masks, the girls found that the nearby Albertson and Williston Park departments did not.

When they researched where to get the masks, they found an organization called Wag’N O2 Fur Life, based in Vancouver, Wash., which sells pet-revival kits for $90.

They presented three of the kits to the Albertson department on Monday, and planned to give five to the Williston Park department on Tuesday. They also framed a certificate of enrollment in the Wag’N O2 “Fur Life Program” for each fire chief.

“I’m glad we were able to help them,” Emily said. The girls raised $720 to purchase eight kits by selling 550 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, selling magazine and snacks through a scout fundraising program called Mags and Munchies and collecting change from recycling over the past two years.

In addition, they took part in a vendor fair at McVey Elementary School in East Meadow, in which they sold homemade, organic dog treats and pet toys they made from old clothing. “It was actually pretty fun,” Megan said.

“My friend’s dog really liked our treats,” Kate added.

Sisters Kate and Emily recently saw their grandparents lose all their possessions in a fire. “It’s very scary how fast it happens,” Emily said. After they shared their story, Corinne’s mother, project supervisor Pam Rufolo, said, “So many people could lose everything in a fire and to have to lose a pet on top of that . . .”

“It’s heartbreaking,” her daughter added.

Corinne, who has a 1-year-old Havanese named Mason, said she was grateful to learn that the EMFD is already equipped with pet masks. If her house were to catch fire, she said, “I could only think of how lucky we’d be.”

Albertson first responders, however, have had to resort to alternative methods to try to revive pets that have inhaled smoke in fires. Chief Jay Janowitz said that some have tried to fit human oxygen masks over pets’ faces, while others have had to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“This is going to help us a lot,” he said. “We’re very grateful for the girls’ hard work.” After the scouts presented the masks to Janowitz outside Albertson F.D. headquarters, he showed them its community message board, which read, “Thank you to East Meadow Girl Scout Troop 1050 for the pet oxygen mask donations.”