Camy Thumwood’s passion for protecting pets didn’t come by accident.
She became a proactive voice for animals in 1989, after watching her neighbor experience heartbreak.
“My neighbor’s house caught on fire, and despite having a sign on her house, her dog died of smoke inhalation,” Thumwood said. “I knew the fire chief and went down to talk to him, and he was irate in my face.”
After this initial, unpleasant conversation, she negotiated a deal with the fire chief. Her task was to create something more efficient and safe for firefighters to identify whether animals might be inside a burning home. The old sticker method was outdated and gave firefighters no information on the pets.
From that moment on, Thumwood worked on a plan to develop a pet-safety kit. The result was the Pet Alert Emergency Information System.
“It took me six months to get it approved,” she said. “It took three years to get the trademark. Pet Alert kit is considered a common-law patent because it is one of its kind.”
Pet Alert released its first kit in 1990. Not long after, it gained popularity and was sold worldwide.
More than 20 years later, though, the system needed an update.
With encouragement from fire chiefs around the country, the Richmond Hill resident said in a news release before the new version was launched, “I was inspired to develop an expanded version of the first Pet Alert Emergency Information System and bring it back for pet owners use to provide proper information to first responders in the event an emergency happens to safeguard all pets that could be in danger and became a victim from smoke inhalation, injury or death.”
The Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting event July 15, which was National Pet Fire Safety Day, at the Richmond Hill Fire Station on Ford Avenue to celebrate the launch of the new Pet Alert.
“Each year, approximately 500,000 pets lose their life in house fires and are lost, injured or killed during other home emergencies, auto accidents or natural disasters,” Thumwood said. “Why? No information was available regarding the pets, and they were overlooked or time just ran out.”
In developing Pet Alert, Thumwood said, she “studied life-threatening situations of pets during all types of emergencies and interviewed many concerned pet owners that had lost a pet due to a home fire and other situations.”
She worked with a number of public-safety agencies — such as fire, police, EMS and animal control — to know what information was most crucial to these types of emergencies.
“The Pet Alert Emergency Information System was developed to give your pets a lifeline to safety by providing the right information in all the right places,” Thumwood said. “Designed to safeguard all your animals and first responders during many types of emergencies to save precious time to help, locate and make rescue possible. Designed in a universal format so it can be used anywhere.”
Despite taking time to pursue other careers, Thumwood took action to move forward with Pet Alert once again.
“I am trying to educate pet owners to be pet safe,” she said. “Basically, now has become the era for pet safety, and people are starting to open up and realize that pets are a part of the family. Even more so for pets because they have no voice, this system gives them a voice in case of emergency.”
Once known as the guiding light to pet safety in Orange County, California, where she developed the first Pet Alert, Thumwood has continued to play a major role in growing pet-safety awareness. She also wrote a book, “Guide to Pet Safety: ‘Saving the Entire Family’ Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Reference” to aid her in her efforts to train those who handle emergency situations.
The Pet Alert kit covers everything from A to Z, including pet safety in the car, home or RV; and a pet-sitter information sheet.
Keeping pets safe goes beyond daily routine of food and water. Having the right information at the right time is life or death for pets. First responders can handle situations and protect pets when they know pertinent information that allows them to act fast, she said.
For more information on Thumwood and her Pet Alert Emergency Information System, and more details on the kit, go to www.petalert.com.