AUSTIN, Texas – It's a unique solution to a unique problem. While there are countless air pollution masks available for man, Kirby Holmes realized there wasn't one for man's best friend.
- Mask production funded through Kickstarter campaign
- Idea came after seeing fashionable pollution masks for humans
- Many masks are being bought by customers in wildfire heavy regions
"We looked all over the world to find out, does this product exist? - and it didn't," said Holmes.
Holmes, a Houston native and current Austin resident, got the idea for a pollution mask for dogs after seeing air pollution masks being marketed to humans as a fashion item – masks with designs and patterns.
"As everybody rushes to get air pollution masks to protect themselves, nobody's thought that my dog is breathing the same air I am," Holmes said.
Trying to gauge interest, Holmes created a website with articles surrounding the concept of a canine pollution mask. It was when wildfires caused massive amounts of smoke along the west coast last year that the site started getting a bunch of hits.
"We got over a thousand email addresses within a couple of weeks," said Holmes.
Tapping his cousin for help, the two developed a prototype for the K9 Mask, launching a Kickstarter campaign to get funding for mass production.
"We worked through a lot of iterations, came up with a lot of design ideas and finally came down with something that we believe does work and works really well," said Holmes.
According to Holmes and the K9 Mask website, the product claims to protect against smoke, smog, emissions, mold, allergies, chemicals, bacteria and other airborne toxins. The mask has a "panting vent" to allow dogs to breathe air out, but the incoming air passes through N95 and PM2.5 air filters that are inserted into the mask.
While the product may work, getting Rover or Fido to put the mask on is another matter altogether. Holmes tells customers to put a treat inside the muzzle of the mask to get to get their snout inside.
However, Holmes said the mask isn't for everyday use.
"If you're in your garage and you're doing woodworking and you want to protect yourself, and you love having your dog sit with you and be with you - that might be a situation where you want them to wear that," said Holmes. "There's a lot of dust."
After securing Kickstarter funding in April, according to the website, Holmes has already fulfilled 750 orders around the country and across the world.
Many of the masks, Holmes said, have recently been shipped to California where dog owners are looking to protect their pets from the smoke generated by this year's massive wildfires. Holmes said he's also received several orders from China.
"This week we just shipped a box of these masks top Hong Kong where there's rioting and there's tension and there's a lot of tear gas in the city," said Holmes. "We've got a lot of dog owners in Hong Kong saying, 'Would this product help me protect my pet against tear gas?'"
The mask comes in five different sizes to help fit dogs of all snout sizes. Holmes said they have yet to develop a mask that would be able to fit a flat-faced canine.