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When a home goes up in flames, all too often the family pets don't survive. An Anaheim woman has a plan to change that.
The solution? Oxygen masks. For pets.
Debra Jo Chiapuzio and her black Labrador mix Emma Zen travel the country raising funds and awareness about pet oxygen masks, cone-shaped breathing masks designed to fit dogs, cats and other pets.
The crusade for savings pets from smoke inhalation began after she learned that a kit was only $75.
"If my dog died because a station didn't have a piece of equipment that only cost $75, I just couldn't live with myself," Chiapuzio said.
So far, she's gotten 17 kits for Anaheim. That's just the beginning.
She started "Emma Zen," named after her dog. The company, which has already been approved as a 501(c) non-profit, promotes the public awareness of animals and their safety.
"I went to street fairs, expos and asked for contributions to my cause," said Chiapuzio. "We do not sell these masks as private or personal property. In fact, I don't donate them to the public either. They are shipped straight to the fire departments (donors) wish to support."
"My own personal 'add' to this is that I try to hand deliver or at least speak on the phone with each department we donate to," she said.
Chiapuzio and her dog recently returned from a three-week, 5,000-mile motorcycle trip promoting pet oxygen masks. Emma Zen, who's logged more than 25,000 miles, rides shotgun in the bike's sidecar.
"You don't see a 106-pound dog in a sidecar often," said Chiapuzio. "So, I used it as an opportunity to say, 'we're riding for awareness.' It doesn't bring in a lot of funds, but it brings in plenty of awareness."
Now that the teammates are back from their road trip, Chiapuzio is delivering new kits to firefighters and first-responders. Once the latest batch is distributed, she'll have provided 100 kits. Recipients include departments in Redondo Beach, Monterey Park, Arkansas, Ohio, Minnesota and Oregon, to name a few.
The campaign is now spanning the globe.
"Emma's Facebook is loaded with friends who all actively participate in her adventures. Many of them have helped to generate publicity and placement," said Chiapuzio.
Beltz bought a kit from Chiapuzio and took it to Germany on a family vacation. She delivered the kit to Moni Bachner, a German TV producer (and dog lover).
"Today, I had a date with the chief of the fire department in Ludwigshafen," wrote Bachner in an e-mail to Chiapuzio. "He was very interested and excited about the pet oxygen masks. He called some other men of his department to come to his office and they immediately tried if the German equipment would fit with the masks. They did."
Bachner says she is planning news coverage on German TV about the masks and the department's van dedicated to saving pets' lives.
"We are anxiously awaiting the announcement in Germany, and together with Lisa, the Emma Zen Foundation is already working on supplying more to that country. She also has connections in Sweden," Chiapuzio said.
"Watch out world."