BOSTON MA. – AUGUST 5: Animal Rescue League performed life-saving surgery on Gibbs, a miniature schnauzer, who ingested paper masks and is asking the public to properly dispose of their PPE’s on August 5, 2020 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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Doggone it, pick up your PPE.

Gibbs, a 3-year-old Miniature Schnauzer recovering at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, nearly died from ingesting a mask.

Little Gibbs underwent emergency surgery after he and two other dogs were seized by police when they were found living in squalor at a Dracut home. Their owner, Jonathan Garrity, 37, was arrested on July 24 and charged with three counts of animal cruelty, Dracut police said.

After swallowing the mask, Gibbs showed signs of gastrointestinal discomfort, including diarrhea and vomiting, League spokesman Mike DeFina said. An X-ray showed the mask, including a metal nose piece, in his stomach.

“Luckily, he’s doing really well,” DeFina said. “He has a really good energy level, and he’s playful outdoors. The surgery really did save his life.”

DeFina added: “We don’t know where he ingested the mask, but it was an opportunity to remind people to dispose of this stuff properly. We don’t want to see any animal hurt or even killed from someone being careless.”

Gloves and masks can smell like food to animals, DeFina said, and once they’re ingested, they can cause gastrointestinal problems and intestinal blockages.

The metal nose piece can be especially dangerous, he said, because it can cause a tear in the esophagus or stomach and lead to sepsis, an invasion of the body by microorganisms or their toxins.

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is not only harmful to dogs but to the environment.

Karen Buck, president of Friends of the Malden River, said a small cleanup the group did one day on an access road roughly a 1/4-mile long in front of the Oak Grove MBTA train stop yielded, among other litter, 62 vinyl gloves and 20 masks, which would otherwise have been swept into the river via street storm drains when it rained.

“This is just adding to the trash that ends up in our rivers,” Buck said.

As for Gibbs, he still has a little ways to go before he’s fully recovered, DeFina said.

“He’s still a little underweight,” he said, “but once he gains that weight, probably within the next week or so, he and Lulu and Otis, the other two dogs whose owner signed them over to police, should be ready for adoption.”