Where is Jack?

Making Air Travel Safe for Pets

The Lessons of Xiaohwa


Dear Friends of Jack and other readers:

This turned out to be a long post, addressing a multitude of issues.  I will be posting one section each day until the whole post is up.  Your comments on each section are appreciated and welcomed…

It’s been over a year since Jack’s gone missing.  Unfortunately, the Where Is Jack? Inc. team has been made aware of or been involved with several cases of animals being lost at airports during the last 15 months: Jack, of course; George in Canada; Wenty at SeaTac; Nahla at LaGuardia (RIP); Clara/Tosha at JFK; and now, Xiaohwa – and that’s not all of them.  We had already learned so much, but the lessons that Xioahwa is teaching us may be the most difficult – and the most important.


We didn’t find out Xiaohwa was missing until she had been gone for a week.  A week is a long time when an animal is lost.  If the animal is lost outside, they can travel a LONG WAY in a week.  If they are lost inside, they will have had time to find the most hidden space, away from noise – and people.  It is still possible to find a pet that has been lost for a week, but every day a pet is lost, makes it increasingly more difficult to find that pet – or even to know where to look.XiaoHwa2

This highlights a particular problem that occurs when a pet is lost in an airport or during air travel – WHAT SHOULD A PET GUARDIAN DO??  The pet guardian is away from their home, in an environment that is at least somewhat unfamiliar, and they have no authority to move around the airport freely.  Many times, they are scheduled to get on a flight.  Most pet guardians have no idea what to do when their pet goes missing.  They feel they are left to rely on either the airline or the airport authority.

When Jack went missing Karen texted me immediately.  The airline had told her Jack had been lost, but to get on the plane and they would find him.  She was already in stressful situation – this was the last step in moving 3000 miles away – but when AA lost Jack, she found herself in a dramatically more tense situation.  And with absolutely no idea what to do to move forward.

And quite honestly, when she texted me, I had no idea what to do, either.  I was walking my dog, and on the way home it hit me – FACEBOOK.  I began to work the social network to look for help. And so the movement was born…

But honestly, it wasn’t the most effective strategy for finding Jack. It didn’t get Jack found any sooner. And ultimately, because he was without food or water for 61 days, it didn’t keep him alive.

And even more importantly, we have not been able to keep other animals from being lost. Nor have we been able to create a clear path for people to follow when their pets are lost in an airport (or on a plane).

Just as when Jack was lost, the distraught pet parent is still told by the airlines that “they will find the pet” as they are boarded on the plane.  Or the TSA flatly states that it isn’t their problem – leaving the guardian in an even more difficult situation.

But the true bottom line is this: no one working for any airline, in any airport, is truly charged with responding to the emergency situation that is created when a pet is lost.  THERE ARE NO TRUE FIRST RESPONDERS.

And we have not yet been able to change this.

Part II: The Lessons of Xiaohwa – Losing a Pet in an Airport is Not Much Different than Losing a Pet in the Grand Canyon… will be posted tomorrow.

13 thoughts on “The Lessons of Xiaohwa

  1. Appreciate all you do! I continue to use my Jack bag, and I have had some interesting reactions. A homeless woman at Walmart had tears as I explained what happened to him….to the bored checkout person who did not really hear what I said. Luckily she was the exception! I notice some read what is said and then quickly look away!

  2. I am amazed at all of the problems that the airlines have with pets. I have never had to fly with a pet (thankfully) and I hope I never have to. However, because of the FoJ page I have learned so much about what I should do in case I ever am in the situation where I have to fly with a pet.

    So, the airlines may not have changed the rules or guidelines “yet”, but you have definitely raised awareness among pet parents. This is a good starting point. I am saddened by the loss of so many pets, but feel that you have helped us work towards a better, safer way to travel the airlines with our pets.

    Thank you. Thanks for all you have done and continue to do for our furry friends!

  3. There has to be a way to lobby Congress and the White House about the way the airlines and other transportation providers respond and handle pets who may have gotten away. Reading these posts of lost pets just breaks my heart.

  4. This rips my heart apart. I don’t know what I would do if my pet was lost while traveling — i think it would quite possibly destroy me. Thank God for people like you who are speaking out against the egregious lack of airport responsibility.

  5. We will never forget JACK!

  6. Pingback: The Lessons of Xiaohwa – PART 2 « Where is Jack?

  7. Most cities don’t have services in place for recovering lost pets either. Getting lost pets back to their families and keeping them out of “shelters” and pounds is known as “Proactive Redemptions”. This is one of the eleven mandatory programs and services of the No Kill Equation that need to be in place to create a no-kill community.

    Kat Albrecht from Missing Pet Partnership wrote an article about this called “Missing Animal Response”. It is posted on the No Kill Advocacy Center site under the “Learn” tab.

    One of the barriers to increasing the return to owner rate Kat identified is the lack of a centralized site or database for lost and found pets. When one does exist, often people are not aware of it. Most communities have several popular sites. It is necessary to recognize and promote the best, newer sites and methods. Newer technology and innovative thinking s making it easier and less expensive (or free) to have a great site that can replace other sharing methods for lost pets.

    For example, HelpingLostPets (dot) com has a mission to become THE centralized database for lost and found pets in Canada. I don’t know if they are also in the U.S. or if there is something similar there. The HeLP site is map based but is searchable; ads are shareable and printable. Even if you are in a strange city, you can quickly look up animal shelters, animal services and animal groups in your vicinity if they have added themselves to the HeLP map. It allows people to post lost and found ads for free and includes a free smartphone app. Pets can be pre registered for free, too. People can contact the pet owner with sightings and they can update their lost pet ad as needed. People can even sign up to get email/text alerts about lost pets in their region. Cities can get set up to use it to post stray animals more effectively and efficiently than if they designed their own sites; shelters and rescues can even link to their adoptable pet listings.

    A community working to put a comprehensive life-saving strategy in place should be coordinating their efforts with their local airports and other agencies and groups. When such a strategy exists in the community, that makes it possible to coordinate things with the airports, etc.

    Good, compassionate leadership is crucial to putting these programs in place. When you support creating a no-kill community using the No Kill Equation, you are doing so based on successful examples, not failed ones. (As of today, there are 82 places documented on the independent No-Kill Communities blog.

    These communities often reach no-kill achieved status without having every program in place. Much more needs to be done to get lost pets safely back to their worried families as it benefits the pets and owners/guardians as well as shelters, rescue groups and taxpayers. Supporting the creation of no-kill communities using the No Kill Equation will also help with lost pets recovery efforts and increase the safety net for animals in communities, something we all want to see in place ASAP!

  8. Thank you, Mary Beth!! Jack must not have died in vain!! I will always remember that brave and courageous Jack the Cat. Love you, Jack!!

  9. Hi Mary Beth; boy, it never gets easier, does it? I’m still in awe of the work you’ve done–and continue to do–on behalf of animals and their parents. I’m keeping a good thought for you and all the other FoJs. Best of holiday wishes to you and Karen, and all your loved ones. Please send my regards.

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