I’ve been mulling over “the Rudy incident” since it happened. Rudy – the 4-month-old hairless kitten that was lost earlier this month by Delta at ATL – was being transported by a breeder in British Columbia, Canada, to a family near Tampa, Florida. Here are some of the thoughts I had in regard to “the Rudy incident”:
1. Where Is Jack? Inc. exists to advocate on behalf of all animals who have been lost, injured or killed while in the hands of the airlines. This happens without regard to the animal’s history, temperament, age, or any other condition. Any creature that is in the care of the airline (meaning being shipped as cargo or checked baggage) deserves to be handled with dignity and respect. PERIOD. And we are here to help them when they are in need.
2. We advocate for the safety of animals, but we understand that an animal traveling as cargo or checked baggage is, by definition, in danger. Animals should not be shipped as cargo or checked baggage except under the most extreme circumstances. Rudy was shipped by a breeder to a family who had purchased him for a substantial sum of money (an amount I believe was in excess of $1000). When I spoke with the breeder on the morning I found out Rudy was lost, she told me how she had “driven all the way to Seattle to use Delta, because they were the safest.” She had clearly done this before. And it seems she’s learned NOTHING from this whole experience…
Terrifying. Utterly TERRIFYING.
Selling a cat to a person on the diagonally opposite side of the continent does not, in my view, constitute something that must happen. And if it is something that does happen, the responsible thing to do is for someone to FLY WITH THAT KITTEN UNDER THE SEAT. The only reason Rudy was shipped as cargo was because it was convenient for both the seller and the purchaser. But was it convenient for Rudy? Lost for three days in ATL? I don’t think so. And more importantly, it wasn’t fair to him – NOT FAIR AT ALL.
There are responsible breeders out there who do not allow their animals to travel alone, and who do not even allow an animal to stay in a home they haven’t personally checked themselves. If you are dedicated to a particular breed of animal, find a RESPONSIBLE breeder. And if you can’t find that breeder, we’ll help you. But DON’T ship an animal by air alone unless it’s an absolute emergency!
3. Delta understood that they had to make finding Rudy a priority. Kudos! When Jack got lost and I called the folks at American Airlines at JFK, they said “don’t worry – the last time this happened we starved him out and found him in about a month.” AAAAARGH!!!! Nothing like that this time! The folks on the ground at Delta at ATL were understanding, responsive and beyond professional. The head of the crew at the D gates (where Rudy was lost) gave up his Saturday – without pay! – to bring in a search dog and handler team. This is critical – it’s not when things are going right that we see what a company is all about… it’s how they handle situations when things go wrong. Delta showed some corporate integrity in this situation. If the only thing that has gotten better in the last four years – since Jack was lost – is that the airlines are responsive when an animal is lost, then at least some progress has been made.
4. After Rudy was lost, the family did alot of things right! They reached out, they found an advocate in the Atlanta area, they found a search and handler team that was available to go in the next day, they offered a reward, they started a Facebook page – these folks really got in there and did what needed to be done! The most important thing you can do if your dog or cat is lost, injured or killed while in the care of the airlines is to LET PEOPLE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!! The more you can get the word out, the more help you will get… and that is the key to finding your furbaby while they’re still safe and sound! (Bonus: it also lets other people know that bad things do happen when pets fly in cargo – a message they won’t get from the airlines.)
5. I have said this privately for some time now, and I will say it publicly now… as far as animals and travel, IF YOU WOULDN’T DO IT WITH A THREE-YEAR-OLD CHILD, DON’T DO IT WITH AN ANIMAL. If you’re not ok with putting your 3-year-old on a plane without someone she knows to watch over her, don’t do it with a dog or cat. If you’re not ok with putting your 3-year-old in the cargo hold of the plane, don’t do it with a dog or cat. Cats and dogs generally have the vocabulary, intelligence and emotional response patterns usually seen in 3-year-old humans… so if you wouldn’t do it with a 3-year-old, don’t do it with a dog or cat!!
I’m glad Rudy was found, and that he is now safely ensconced in his home with his family. And I hope everyone involved learned something from what happened. Rudy’s the only one who’s off the hook at this point… the rest of us have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent this from ever happening again.