Walnut Hill: Local Firefighter Also Rescues Animals

Dede was rescued in November from a house fire in West Philadelphia.
Jennifer Leary is the founder of Red Paw Emergency Relief Team.

Responding to an emergency often takes courage and conviction. For Red Paw Emergency Relief Team founder Jen Leary, it’s a natural reaction to help people and animals who are in need.

Leary, a full-time Philadelphia firefighter who specializes in fire prevention, has been helping animals and non-profits since a young age.

As a firefighter Leary would often see animals at the fire ground level that could not be treated for their injuries, due to the lack of an animal assistance procedure, often get abandoned or perish. The idea for an animal rescue organization had been in Leary’s mind for years, but a few specific incidents helped to spark her into action.

A few years ago Leary responded to a two-alarm fire in Center City as an emergency responder with the Red Cross. Leary saw the owners carrying the animals out of the house screaming and crying. Using her vehicle, Leary drove the animals and the owners to Penn Veterinary Hospital while administering oxygen to the wounded pets.

Unfortunately, the pets died but Leary was motivated to never have an incident like that happen again.

“It was a helpless feeling yes, but it got me to the point of saying enough is enough. I was tired of seeing animal suffer due to a lack of options,” Leary said.

Red Paw is now a thriving animal rescue and response organization in Philadelphia. Leary and her team of volunteers, in conjunction with the American Red Cross, are always on call to provide emergency transport, shelter and veterinary care for animals involved in residential fires and other incidents.

According to the 2010 Southeastern American Red Cross annual report, the Red Cross responded to 685 disasters, with 650 of them being fires.

“There are on average about two residential fires a day in the city of Philadelphia. We have responded to every sector of the city especially West Philadelphia. One of our biggest success stories, actually our mascot, is a young female pit-bull named Dede that we rescued from a house fire in West Philadelphia last November,” Leary said.

Dede was rescued along with two other dogs and a cat during a two-alarm house fire. With the owner not being able to financially afford his animals anymore Red Paw stepped in and was able

Dede was rescued in November from a house fire in West Philadelphia.

to get the animals the care that they needed. Dede’s new owner Mary Curry is thrilled to have Dede.

Curry, a Conshohocken resident, volunteers through Red Paw when she has the time and appreciates what Leary and Red Paw is doing for animals of West Philadelphia.

“Jen is just an amazing person. She must never sleep because she is always responding to rescues and doing whatever she can for these animals. It is just a great organization. I recently assisted in a rescue through Red Paw, and I plan on doing more in the near future,” Curry said.

Red Paw is a non-profit organization that is run primarily through donations and depends upon volunteers like  Curry.

Volunteers such as her are are helping to make Red Paws a viable and successful option for animals in need.  More people are beginning to volunteer their time to Red Paws, and it is starting to really grow.

Leary plans on obtaining an office and a shelter to help Red Paws really expand its effectiveness. Currently, Leary uses her own home to help stage the animals she rescues until she can find the necessary resources that the animals may need. But Leary is intent on expanding the operation.

“In a way we have become victims of our own success. We have been so successful and so welcomed that we are constantly busy all the time. Not only are we an emergency response organization, we have morphed into an animal rescue organization that now has animals in our care that need to be fostered, fed and sheltered,” she said. “We are setting up volunteers all the time. I have a full-time job, but Red Paws is definitely my life.”




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