How do you give CPR to a pet? Swansea Girl Scout on a mission to train emergency workers

·4 min read

SWANSEA — Do you know what you would do if your dog collapses?

Truth is not many people would, and in fact a good number of pet parents, animal shelter staff and first responders are not trained for such emergency situations.

Swansea teen Mary Arruda hopes to change that by providing free resources to help others keep their furry friends safe.

Driven by her love of animals, the Case High School senior organized Pet CPR/first aid classes to equip participants — specifically first responders and shelter volunteers — with the know-how during a pet emergency.

"It's definitely something I've been very passionate about, and taking care of animals and bettering the world for them is definitely a priority," Arruda said.

The 16-year-old is a longtime member of Girl Scout Troop 1000, and this endeavor is the focus of her Gold Award Project, the highest award a Girl Scout can receive.

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Case High School senior Mary Arruda organized the Pet CPR/first aid classes as part of her Gold Award Project. A Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can receive.
Case High School senior Mary Arruda organized the Pet CPR/first aid classes as part of her Gold Award Project. A Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can receive.

How the special classes came about

The project got rolling after talking with Swansea Animal Control Officer Lisa White and an EMT at the Swansea Ambulance Corps, and discovering none of the volunteers at the Swansea Animal Shelter were pet CPR trained and not many emergency service personnel.

"I realized that this is a major issue that needs to get resolved," Arruda said. "These animal shelter volunteers and first responders should be certified in order to help pets and give them the proper aid that they deserve."

Tom Rinelli held an interactive training Sunday, June 26, 2022, at Swansea's Post 303 American Legion Hall to provide local emergency personnel and shelter volunteers with the tools to properly treat four-legged patients in distress.
Tom Rinelli held an interactive training Sunday, June 26, 2022, at Swansea's Post 303 American Legion Hall to provide local emergency personnel and shelter volunteers with the tools to properly treat four-legged patients in distress.

She reached out to Tom Rinelli, a seasoned EMS provider and educator and owner of New York-based Paws N Claws 911, and with the help of funding from Stateline Subaru in Somerset set up free classes in her hometown this past weekend.

According to the class description on Paws N Claws 911’s website, "in the event of a pet emergency, first responders often 'wing it' using modified techniques and equipment designed for humans."

The interactive training held Sunday at Swansea's Post 303 American Legion Hall provided local emergency personnel the tools to alproperly treat four-legged patients in distress. There was a separate course as well geared toward shelter volunteers.

What participants learned

Presented with a "real-world" approach, participants got hands-on life-saving skills practice on a simulated demo animal. Utilizing the training props, they learned everything from emergency muzzling and restraint, to vital signs assessment, canine and feline CPR, and what to do in the event of choking, seizures and poisoning.

Arruda said these classes are especially important for first responders in the wake of Nero's Law, a bill drafted in response to the line-of-duty shooting that killed Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon and severely injured his K9 partner Nero in 2018.

The bill authorizes EMS personnel to provide emergency treatment and transport of police dogs, including basic first aid, CPR and life-saving interventions. Massachusetts law did not allow for Nero’s injuries to be treated by emergency medical personnel at the time of Gannon's death.

Shelter volunteers learn the intricacies of performing CPR on pets at a special class held Sunday, June 26 2022, at Swansea's Post 303 American Legion Hall.
Shelter volunteers learn the intricacies of performing CPR on pets at a special class held Sunday, June 26 2022, at Swansea's Post 303 American Legion Hall.

Arruda extended invites to the staff at Swansea Animal Shelter, police and fire departments and Swansea Ambulance Corps, and dozens signed up.

"They were extremely interested ... especially animal shelter volunteers. Almost every single one definitely wanted to do it and were extremely excited about it," Arruda said.

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Every student took home a demo animal and training props for further practice, as well as a certificate of completion that is valid for two years.

There's an app for that

Arruda said she's very happy with the turnout for her classes and hopes they serve as a catalyst for similar events in surrounding communities.

"I hope this encourages more first responders and animal shelter volunteers from other areas to get certified," said Arruda, who hopes to continue helping others as a lawyer someday.

And if you're a pet owner just looking to feel a bit less helpless in a worst-case scenario involving your furry friend, Arruda wants to let you know there's an app for that.

Her project also promotes a Red Cross Pet First Aid app that provides users instant access on what to do in the event of various pet emergencies, and offers general care tips for cats and dogs.

As an incentive to download the app, Arruda said she'll be donating — with the support of Stateline Subaru — pet first aid kits to the first 100 people to show her that they've done so.

The app can be found at: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps.html. Arruda said she has placed sign up sheets around town and can be reached by email at maryarruda827@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Swansea Girl Scout held Pet CPR first aid classes for first responders