Duluth firefighters learn lifesaving skills ­— but for pets

Published 6:27 am Saturday, December 1, 2018

By Dan Kraker

MPR News/90.1 FM

Inside a Duluth fire station Monday morning, two burly firefighters practiced performing life-saving CPR — not on people, but on two life-like mannequins of dogs.

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It was part of a first-of-its-kind training for Duluth firefighters on how to treat pets and animals in fires and other emergencies that included hands-on instruction in wound care and bandaging, safe animal handling and even CPR.

Much of the emergency treatment firefighters perform on people transfers to pets, said Liz Hanson, practice manager at BluePearl emergency pet hospital in Duluth, which provided the training for free to the city. “It’s just making sure they’re aware of that.”

But she said there are key differences, like where to do compression during CPR. It’s also important to know how to handle animals, she said, to minimize the chance of bites or other injuries.

“Animals can’t talk to us, and being able to read their body language and things like that is really important just to keep them safe and us safe,” she said.

The Duluth Fire Department approached BluePearl to create a training program after the city received two recent donations for pet-specific training and equipment, including several pet oxygen masks.

A Twin Cities-based organization called BART — Basic Animal Rescue Training — conducts trainings around Minnesota and several other states.

Pet-specific training for firefighters and other first-responders is becoming more commonplace in Minnesota and nationwide, as pets assume a more prominent place in many American households.

“Most people that have pets treat those pets just like another member of their family, just like another child,” said Schilling. “So whenever we go to a fire, it’s always one of the things we’re looking for. Are all the people out, and are all the pets out.”