Save My Pet Stickers

pet alert fire sticker

You know those stickers you can buy that asks your fire department to save your pets in case of fire? They also call them emergency “window clings” or “window signs.” Well, you can save your money, because all they’re going to wind up being is meaningless “window decoration.” I’m not saying that the manufacturers of these window clings are out to take your money. Perhaps they just don’t know that these stickers aren’t effective for the purpose they’re intended to serve. Here is what I recently learned:

I purchased a sticker because I thought firefighters were trained to look for them. I asked my Fire Chief if there’s a particular window that a sticker like this is best placed for immediate recognition. From what he told me, and I got the impression that this is apparently pretty much universal the way he talked, fire fighters pay absolutely no attention to emergency window stickers.

That’s not to say they won’t attempt to save your pet, but their training standards and policies do not include responding as we think they would upon viewing a window sticker telling them that you have pets in your house and pleads “try to save them.” My thought was that if they know a pet is inside because of the sticker, they would consider this a rescue priority. Oh boy, was I ever wrong! One reason they don’t, is that people move and sometimes the stickers remain in place even if the new homeowner doesn’t have pets. Removing unnecessary stickers might be one of those little details we just don’t get around to right away. So, then the fire fighters are risking their own lives by searching for pets that don’t exist. Not good.

From the discussion I had with my Fire Chief, it’s my understanding that fire fighters do a building search following training standards and guidelines. They will not put any fire fighters(s) at risk to search for pets inside a burning building. I was told they won’t even pick up an occupied crate and carry it out. What they do is to open the crate door and let them out, leaving the pet to find their own way out of the burning house. If they find their way outside in their panic, your terrified pet is left to fend for itself. A pet in a panic situation is probably going to run as far away as it can. It may outlive the fire, but it may not outlive the oncoming car as it dashes across the street to get away from the flames. You can only hope someone on scene will try to confine it for you if you are not there yourself. But remember, a freaked out animal is also a potential fear biter, so anyone making the attempt to snatch Fido up and put him in a safe place, risks being bitten.

Here at our house we find this standard disturbing, but no matter how I tried, there was nothing I could do to sway my Fire Chief to change any rules, policies or ways they do things. Believe me, I tried. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a few pet loving fire fighters on the scene that will safely do what they can to help. Chances are they aren’t going to violate policy to do it (which could put their job in jeopardy) and they’re most definitely not going to risk human lives to accomplish trying to save your pet.

I’m not saying that human lives should be put at risk to save a pet, but you’d think there is a better way to do this than to just let a pet loose in a house fire. The chances of them finding their own way out are probably no better than 50/50 which to me is not good enough odds. A panicked pet may just try to find something to hide under or in, which is not going to save their life. Streaking through the house, I tend to think the pet is a liability to firefighters as well.

If the pet is crated, how hard is it to pick up the crate and carry it out? I’ve never been a fire fighter and I don’t mean to be judgemental. Maybe this is significantly more risky than I imagine. Seems to me if the door is a long way from the pet’s location, they might consider breaking a window and handing the crate out to someone waiting. Some crates are to big for this and a panicked animal running loose in a fire is probably going to be impossible to catch in order to hand them out a nearby window.

I keep our furkid’s leashes hanging on the wall by their crates. I balked at my Fire Chief telling me that would do them no good because the fire fighter isn’t going to grab the leash and put it on the dogs to walk them out instead of just opening the crate door. But if you think about that after you calm down, in a way it makes sense. The animal may be cowering at the back of its crate in fear and the owner themself may have difficulty getting the animal to come to them. The fire fighter would have to take time in a burning house to attempt to get the animal leashed before fully opening the crate door. What about the dog that’s reacting aggressively to all that’s going on around it? A terrified animal may just bite the very person that’s trying to save it. The fire fighters wear protective clothing, but this gear is made to be fire retardant, not bite-proof and more than likely not enough to protect them from a dog bite, particularly if the dog is a large one. Trying to put myself in the place of a fire fighter posed with making the instantaneous decision of opening the crate door to a dog or cat to try to try to leash it to walk it out of a house fire, I myself may be forced to think otherwise. Imagine in particular a terrorized protective breed dog, faced with strangers swarming all around their crate, commotion everywhere the dog looks and the house burning down around it.

Is it asking to much for our fire departments to come up with a viable, safe solution to try to save something so precious to the homeowner? Their house is burning, they’re likely going to loose a significant amount of property, perhaps even their home. Do they have to lose their pet, too?

I also have to wonder, if fire fighters aren’t trained to look for emergency window stickers, what does that say about the stickers that tell them their are children or disabled people inside the burning building?

We’d dearly love to hear from some experienced firefighters on this. Maybe you can tell us what your experiences have been fighting fires where there are pets inside. What’s the percentage of pets that survive? How do the pets react? Can you make suggestions for pet owners to help keep their pets as safe as possible should they experience a house fire? Is there anything pet owners can do to help fire fighters be safe and rescue our pets?

*Note that this is how our local fire department operates. Most if not all fire departments must follow certain standards, guidelines and policies. I do believe that some standards are Federally mandated. However, your fire department may do some things differently. This article is not by any means meant to be an overall of every single fire department in the country. We recommend you inquire of your own fire department regarding it’s operating procedures, which may differ from ours.

40 responses on “Save My Pet Stickers

  1. Dana says:

    I just read what you said about your dog and the window stickers that I have been fretting about because I don’t have them. I am deeply disturbed by this. I have 2 cats – and one is really not a nice cat and the other is so skittish. When they are afraid they hide in the ceiling of the basement – they get into it by a hole at the second step to the basement. I worry about a fire and their safety all the time. When I bought the house it had a lot of nob and tube and whereever the not and tube was it was improperly wired. I have had all of this fixed and hopefully it is up to standard now, but I will definately contact my police chief as well and find out if what you are saying is standard, Thanks for the heads up and if he/she says anything contrary to what you have found I will definately forward it along. Thanks alot for sharing your findings.

    Dana

  2. Nancy Snow says:

    hello, i like your idea about having a dog safety sticker in my house window so if in case i were not home to when a fire incident that my dog would be saved if there was a chance of a fire please Notify me.

    my address is:
    44938 Trails ct.
    Canton, MI 48187

  3. Mom says:

    Hi Nancy, from what I learned, you can put any kind of sticker you want in your window(s) but at least here, they will be ignored. Before you purchase and put any sticker(s) on your windows, you might want to check w/your local Fire Dept and find out what their policies are. It would be nice for you if your Fire Dept didn’t have the same policy as ours, but on the other hand you may find it’s a waste of time and money. Good luck!

  4. S says:

    My mom always had those stickers in the window, notifying the fire department that she had 5 cats (!) I always thought it was a waste of time. In a fire, I wouldn’t expect a fireman to notice that sticker as he runs into a smokey house. Recently however, I read a article in my local online paper.

    A firefighter not only saved a cat and dog, he gave them mouth to mouth and brought them back to life. This article gave me the impression that I should have a sticker like that, especially since these firefighters have a policy of making a second “sweep” for pets.

    It’s worth reading, has a happy ending: http://wehonews.com/z/wehonews/archive/page.php?articleID=3072

    • LoraInAlberta says:

      I will continue to place the notice in my window anyway, just in case it is noticed and just in case there is an animal lover fire fighter who understands our pets ARE OUR FAMILY MEMBERS TOO. The way I look at it, it still can’t hurt. What I did learn from this article is that I should put the current year on my notice so they know it isn’t an old or out dated notice left behind or not accurate info. This article broke my heart, hopefully not all fire depts have the same policy, its worth checking out.

      • Mom says:

        Thank you so much for your comments, Lorain. I think it’s been made clear in the responses that not all fire chiefs have the same policy. We’ve heard from some very nice firefighters that they *will* attempt to rescue our pets and those are the firefighters that get my vote! Definitely put the stickers in your window! You go, Girl!

  5. Yogi says:

    I don;t know if stickers on my windows would be ignored or not, but I do know that I would always wonder if something happen while I was not at home, would a sticker have alerted fireman and saved my boy? I realize there are circumstances when saving a pet would put the fireman at risk and that is not the intent of the sticker.

    The stickers aren’t expensive compared to most expenses I incur as a pet owner, therefore I would prefer to have one at each entry way door and hope for the best rather than wish later that I had done all that I could to avert a tragedy.

    Deciding to be a pet owner means we accept responsibility and in life there are no absolutes. Compare this issue to seatbelts. I personally know of an incident where a woman was trapped and crushed because she couldn’t get out of her seat belt in time as a log truck rolled onto her auto. But I still wear my seatbelt. That’s all we can do, try to do what is best most of time, while knowing there are no absolutes, that is taking responsibility.

  6. Liza Smith says:

    I’m going to save my money and print out a notice to put on my door. That way there’s no cost to put the notice, and while it may not help, if there’s a one in a million chance it will it will be worth it.

  7. Katyxxxx says:

    i ALSO HAVE A MIUTT GERMAN SHEPARD, AND WHAT I DID WAS AT WORK
    PRINTED ON COLOR PAPER, BEWARE OF DOG, AND PUT IN PLASTIC
    PROTECTION SHIELDS AND POSTED IN ALL MY WINDOWS, ONE IT IS A RULE
    TO HAVE THE SIGN…………….ALSO ALERTS A DOG INSIDE…….I PRINTED
    THIS ON NEON PAPER……………..I JUST ACCIDENTLY FOUND THIS SITE
    GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
    DOGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG
    LOVERSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS MY DOG HIS NAME IS X

  8. Mom says:

    Hi Katy … thanks for your comment. We have a favor to ask you. Would you please not shout at everyone? Caps is shouting on the Internet, blogging and in email. Us dogs have sensitive ears, we hear 200 times better than humans so you can whisper and we will hear you, honest. Things like shouting and yelling scares us and makes us feel like you are mad at us and we we’re very sorry if we made you mad. Our Mom never yells at us even when we make her mad. Thanks and a big slobbery puppy kiss to you! Riley & Nissa

  9. Krista says:

    I agree with Yogi. Better to know that you did all that you could. Even though the fireman aren’t likely to risk their lives to save the pets and may not pay attention to the notice and do a pet count, I’m still going to post the signs. There could be many emergency situations where they may not have to risk their lives to save the pet and that they may have time to at least open the door to let the pets out.

  10. Barbara says:

    I’m on my town’s emergency planning team and gave our friends a “Save My Pet” sticker a few months ago. They posted it immediately on the front door. This past weekend their home was completely gutted by a fire that took 25 firefighters from four towns to put it out. My friends and I extend our heartfelt thanks to the fireman who saw the sign on the door and went back in to rescue their beloved dog.

  11. Mrs DKR says:

    Really- people need to get a life. I am not an animal lover, but I do care about their safety. But- to ask firefighters to do a second sweep of a burning house to save FIDO or the cat is terrible. It is not worth losing hard working fire fighter (Husbands, sons and Fathers) for the sake of saving a dog or cat. The death of an animal is sad. But how would you feel if a man gave his life to save your dog? Every minute a firefighter is in a burning building, is a minute he can lose his life.

    I know people love their pets, but a little balance could save a precious human life.

  12. Mom says:

    Mrs DKR … the fact that you are not an animal lover explains why you are not fully understanding the comments of the animal lovers here. It’s nice to know that some people who are not animal lovers do still care about their safety, not all non-animal lovers have that compassion. Not every one is, and that’s fine, we don’t expect everyone to be an animal lover. We also understand that people who are not animal lovers, cannot comprehend the pain of losing one. It’s just something they “don’t get” if you follow me, and that is not a criticism, just a fact that some people simply do not understand that for many animal lovers, their pets are their children. For some pet owners, their pet is literally all they have. I seriously doubt that anyone who’s posted their comments would expect nor want a firefighter to put themselves in *additional* danger to save their pet. They only want the firefighters to be aware that there is a pet(s) inside (which the stickers do for them because otherwise how could they know?) and if at all possible without *added* danger to the firefighter, to get their pet out which sometimes *is* possible. From the responses that are coming, it seems to me that it’s possible that fire departments headed by an animal lover will do what they safely can. I know my Chief is not, therefore I have to deal with the knowledge that he has ordered his people to not bother even when it’s possible. Well, as safely as possible in the face of a fire, which is really iffy.

  13. Lisa says:

    Mrs DKR, no one is asking for the firefighters to risk their lives, only that they do what they can while they’re in the burning building. We ask them to be aware. The second sweeps are usually department policy to ensure that the fire is contained, not for the benefit of animals. The comment about an animal’s life not being worth a human life is especially strange on a site for German Shepherds, as many trained police dogs are Shepherds and those officers treat their animals as fellow officers and partners, and they risk a lot to save them if in a critical situation.

    I was skeptical about the stickers, but after reading Yogi’s comment, I agree that it’s better to have one than to wonder “what if”.

  14. John says:

    I’m a retired Firefighter and a pet dad. The official policy in most Departments is:
    1. Stay safe, an injured or god forbid; dead Firefighter is of no use to anyone.
    2. Evacuate all people! Trapped or injured. And secure sight.
    3. Extinguish fire.
    4. Mop up.
    5. Assess site and evaluate cause, damage, performance and safety.
    6. Clean-up.
    7. Review with members.

    When entering a burning building a sweep is done to determine occupancy. All rooms are swept if persons are not accounted for. An identfying mark is usually placed on each door when cleared and then closed. (prevents the fire from spreading more rapidly)
    After the building is cleared it may be possible to rescue pets and I have on many occasions retrieved animals and witnessed EMS apply oxygen and assisted respiration. I have also spent hours chasing down frightened animals who escaped on there own and were running wildly on country roads and freeways.
    The best thing to do is train your pet to go to their kennel when frightened or ordered. My cat automatically hides in his transport crate when the building fire alarm goes off (also during fireworks nights) so it’s easy for me to evacuate him.
    My apartment neighbors who have the “Help Stickers” work together to make sure as many pets can be saved as possible. Some of us have exchanged keys and the super has access to all units in case of emergency. BUT!!! Only if it is safe!
    It is unreasonable to expect a Firefighter to risk life or limb for a pet, I know how precious mine is but I couldn’t bear knowing someone was injured because I didn’t do everything possible to protect my pet.
    Smoke Detectors and Sprinklers Save Lives. So does closing doors and practicing for evacuating. Make a plan and practice it often.

  15. Mom says:

    Hi John … I think it’s safe to say this is from all pet owners everywhere, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the pets you were able to save and to the EMS personnel for their efforts and saves as well. We also appreciate the detailed explanation of how things are done.

  16. Paul says:

    I’m not sure if the stickers work or not, but I don’t think they can hurt. Two nights ago a house in my neighborhood caught fire and the owners weren’t home. A passerby called 911. When the first truck arrived a neighbor informed the firemen that there was a dog inside. I don’t know if a sticker was on the door or not or if she just knew they had a dog. Some of the firemen immediately began assessing the fire while others went in search of the dog. As more units arrived (ultimately 10 trucks, 3 alarms) more were available to search. The dog was located and brought out of the house onto the yard. He was unconscious, but at least five paramedics began working on him immediately. About 10 minutes later the dog recovered and jumped to his feet. It was amazing. There was a loud cheer from the crowd that had gathered. It was a very moving and heartwarming experience. I’m not sure what the official fire department policy is for my area when it comes to pets, but these people were very fortunate to have a fire crew that was willing to look. If they hadn’t known the dog was there, they probably wouldn’t have looked, therefore I think the stickers are a big plus. It’s all about communication.

  17. Amanda says:

    My aunts apartment went on fire and they left the cat behind when they left the house. The fire dept in chicago went right in and found the cat under the couch it bit the firefighter but he came carrying it out of the house so I definitely think it depends on fire depts. I’ve never seen the fire depts here just let animals out on their own.

  18. aclaudio7 says:

    Hello everyone thought that maybe the idea of the neon paper with large black letters is a good alert pluss I thing adding posted date! and update the date on it every six months, placeing pets names, sex, your first name and a cell contact would make more awareness and taken serious, what do you all thing of this idea.

  19. Rachel says:

    Actually my dad, brother and uncle are ALL firefighters and they are trained to look for everything and anything in a burning house that moves! The way they see it, is that animals are like children to their owners and they have a life and as a firefighter they are trained to SAVE LIVES! If my house ever got on fire, i would stay in it until i found all 3 of my dogs. I wouldn’t leave them to fend for themselves and get out of a burning house! That is the only thing that would be worth grabbing if my house was burning down!
    and all you non animal lovers can kiss it! most animals are better then most people i have EVER met in my life.

  20. Less says:

    Reading this, and some other info, I think I’ll pass on a window sticker. But I am reminded of a far more effective tool than any sign – get to know your neighbors!

    If you’re home, it’s not an issue since you’ll save the pets and call the fire dept – or at least be there to advocate for their rescue. At issue here is how to save our pets when we aren’t there to plea for their rescue.

    A neighbor who knows you, knows your pets, and is “on your side” will be a FAR more effective tool than any window decal. Likely even without having a preset agreement, your neighbors will see the fire, call for help, and then break into your house to save your dog. I know that I would do that for MY neighbors.

    Even if they don’t break in to your house to save your dog, they’ll be there at the curb, yelling at the fireman. Did you get the dog? She’s got a dog! Save her dog!

    WAY more effective than a sign – also cheaper. And there are other benefits to becoming friendly with the neighbors as well, I’m sure you can think of a few.

    • Mom says:

      Ya know, that’s a really good thought. One I hadn’t thought of anyway. For those of us who worry because the stickers mean nothing here, this helps! Thanks!

  21. Tim says:

    I would like to say that not all firemen are as cold hearted as you describe. My boss is a fireman with North Queensbury fire department and he will go any lengths to save a pet.Last week he enterd a burning apartment to rescue a dog for the wheel chair bound tennant, although the dog did end up dying in the fire he made every attempt to save it because he would want someone to do the same for his dog.

  22. John Howlind says:

    I am a retired fire chief and can tell you that the emergency pet decals are important. After I retired several fellow firefighters and I helped create petfirerescue.com decals ……because this is something that CAN make a difference.
    Decals need to be made of high quality material to withstand direct OUTDOOR WEATHER….SUN AND COLD. Decals inside the house melt under heat and are not visible from the outside. “Clings” do not withstand the heat of a fire and anything inside has a high probability of melting……if phones melt, decals can easily fail when they are placed on the inside of the window. Animals can frequently survive in this enviornment because they are so low to the ground. Secondly, we recommend placing one decal on a visible OUTSIDE window….and a second on the electric or gas meter. That is where firefighters go initially to secure the ultitites to the building. Firefighters will not unnecessarily risk their lives to save a pet, but if they know a pet is in the building they will look behind the washer/dryer, closets, under sofas etc. as time permits. Some of my saddest times were of memories of family pets….that we could have possibly saved….if only we had known there were inside. Decals at least give animals the chance and professional firefighters will do everything possible to save any life……pet included….in fact a number of departments have equipment especially made to revive animals after a fire. The statement that these decals are not valuable is in my view simply ridiculous…..how does it hurt anything to have decal alerting firefighters? Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this subject.

    • Mom says:

      You and your fellow community members are very lucky that your department DOES pay attention to these stickers! It doesn’t hurt a thing, except my fire chief told me they’re useless because THEY don’t even bother.

  23. dianne hartle says:

    I’d just like to give a shout out to my local fire dept. After reading the statements above I went to Valley Park Missouri Fire Dept website and this is the first thing I saw.
    Way to go VP!
    http://www.vpfire.org

    New Equipment For Our 4 Legged Friends

    We here at the Valley Park Fire District would like thank our Board of Director Danny Wilburn and his wife Marguerite for personally donating pet oxygen masks for our fire apparatus. We recently became aware of this piece of equipment when assisting a neighboring fire department on a second alarm apartment fire where a cat was rescued and revived using a pet oxygen mask. The masks are called Recovery Oxygen Masks made by SurgiVet, and are used to provide oxygen to animals that are in respiratory distress, and in our line of work will usually be from smoke inhalation. They come in three sizes and are reusable. We hope we never have to use them, but if the situation arises it’s good to know that we have the tools to help our four legged friends also. Here is a picture of Harley, one of our firefighter’s dog, who was gracious enough to demonstrate how they work.

    photo of Harley wearing an oxygen mask

  24. Mom says:

    Hi Dianne,

    Thanks sooooo much for sharing this with us. What wonderful people to make such a valuable donation! I’m totally impressed! These folks really ROCK!

    We are getting a new fire chief within the next few months and I’m hoping that the new chief will take a more caring view on rescuing pets from burning buildings.

  25. dianne hartle says:

    Here is the response email from my Valley Park, MO fire department about window sitckers…..Once again let me say, THEY ROCK!!!
    …………………………………………………………………………………….
    I am sorry, we do not have or sell pet window stickers, I believe there are several organizations that have them available, and I am pretty sure you can get them at petsmart or petco. While our first priority is protecting human lives, we definately look out for our four legged friends, and if we see a window sticker alerting us to a pet, we will do our best to keep an eye out for them when working an emergency situation at your home. I don’t know if you saw our website, but we recently purchased pet oxygen masks, and even had a cat rescue at a call last month. Thank you for your inquiry, and let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

    Captain Jack Ley
    Valley Park Fire District

  26. Patsy says:

    I have two dogs that I love more than anything!! When I go to bed I close my bedroom door to keep the dogs in the room….on my night stand I have two “slip on” leashes. Each leash has a dog tag. In case of fire, I can slip the leashes on my dogs and break out of my bedroom patio door. At least, this is my plan. If I lost my “babies” life would not be worth living.

  27. MOlsen says:

    As a firefighter, I have to say, I’m not sure what our policy is? I’ll be finding out though! As for the decals, I’d say to put them on the lower left corner of the front door. An odd spot, but when we’re going in, we’re on our hands and knees, opening the door – so that’s where our eyes will be!

    • Deb says:

      Thanks for the great idea. I think what I’m going to do is to put the darn stickers back up and hope that if firefighters ever need to respond to my house that those responding will be dog lovers and will do what they can to help my furkids. I would hope that sticker would be at least a 50% chance vs. 0% with no sticker.

  28. Jillys says:

    Why is it even a discussion? It’s just a sticker for God’s sake, it’s not like it’s breaking the bank! Put the sticker up – if they ignore it then you’re no worse off than you would have been anyway. But if you have a firefighter who is an animal lover or just a compassionate person, and they see the alert and save your pet, then it is well worth it! My uncle was an FDNY firefighter – and he has told me stories of trying to save BIRDS in fires – b/c he is an animal lover and HE chooses to take whatever risk may be involved. At least putting up the sticker gives that option. I would do ANYTHING to ensure my dog’s safety – putting up a fire sticker is just one simple and inexpensive way – there’s no reason not to at least have that information available.

  29. Dave says:

    As a fire fighter I can tell you I, as well as most of my fellow fire fighters, when finding a pet will try to get them out. Most times we don’t see the stickers because they are hidden in the smoke or we are just too focused on what we are about to do. But I have resuced several dogs and one piranha. One dog we were told about and we did a search for him and found him. I was on my hands and knees and opened a door and all I saw was a big wet nose and tongue on my face mask. Cats are a different story, you most often never find a cat. But they have an uncany ability to survive. I have seen houses gutted and when overhauling the cat runs out. Oh and sorry to say the piranha didnt make it…….

  30. Terri says:

    I hate these window decals and they’re a waste of money. They faded to white within the first month and I had to just throw them away.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Terri,

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience with the stickers you purchased. I would imagine the sun probably faded it out just like it does curtains or anything else in the window for awhile. I don’t know if another sticker manufacturer would help or not.

  31. Christopher says:

    I have been a paramedic firefighter for over 13 years
    Rest assured I’m looking for you pets and will do my best to get them out alive ,
    Please understand if a person is trapped they are my priority .
    Dogs and cats hide in places that are two small for me to search , in a fully involved blaze it is pitch black I can barely see my hand in front of my face .
    I have rescued and resuscitated 4 dogs in my Career , 1 cat . A couple snakes
    And one pissed off fox ! Never have I had to save a cat in a tree.
    Put your stickers on your door I will see it . Your animal loving paramedic.

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