This is the first of a four-part series. Read Part 2 here.
It all started in 2011: Jack was lost by American Airlines on August 25. Two excruciatingly long months later, Jack was “found” when he fell through the ceiling of the Customs and Border Patrol Office in the AA terminal at JFK. Then after 12 days, he had to be humanely euthanized because he didn’t have the strength to heal his wounds.
I thought that was as low as things could go. I was heartbroken – but I vowed to work hard to keep what had happened to Jack from happening again. I knew it would be a battle, but it seemed like a worthwhile fight. Most importantly – it seemed like a fight that could be won. After all – we didn’t want anything from the airlines but for them to fulfill the responsibilities they had assumed when they agreed to fly pets.
Of course it wasn’t as simple as “getting the airlines to fulfill their responsibilities.” But that was alright – it would be more work than anyone originally thought, but the mission was still do-able. We could work with sub-contracted baggage handlers. We could work with airports. We could work with pet parents.We could DO THIS! Jack’s legacy would be fulfilled!!
And then the incidents kept coming. Xiaowha – never found, but we learned so much. Tosha – found and reunited with her family. Cats and dogs lost in and around airports in New York, Seattle, San Diego, Edmonton, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Trenton. We helped as best we could. Some were found and reunited with their families. Some crossed over the Bridge. Every time was an emergency. And every time was exhausting.
On top of working to find lost animals, we were also working to fix “the system.” We presented information to the management team at JFK to help them respond effectively when an animal is lost on the property. We filed with the Department of Transportation when they asked for comments about their proposed rule change (a change we supported, though we didn’t think it went far enough). And we sent information to vets across the nation about the dangers of flying a pet as cargo/checked baggage – because all pets have to have a veterinary health certificate issued not more than 30 days before flying.
And there was a moment of satisfaction – the Department of Transportation did create a new rule that required airlines to report ALL domestic animals that were lost, injured or killed while in their care. This was a small – but significant – victory. No longer would dogs and cats shipped by breeders or for other commercial purposes not count. Their lives would matter just as much as an animal traveling with his or her family.
But then it happened. Just months after the new rule went into effect, Delta announced it would no longer be accepting pets as “checked baggage” – they would be flying as “cargo.” This meant that “animal incidents” would not have to be counted, because they were no longer part of the passenger air travel system. “Cargo” is a different category of transport than “luggage.” United followed suit with their “PetSafe” program soon after.
The minimal amount of accountability we had fought to secure was now undermined. And there it was: the bottom line. The airlines would always find a way to make the rules work for them, so they could continue to say what the public wanted to hear, and continue to make money for their C-suite inhabitants and shareholders. No animal’s life would ever be as important as bringing in the dollars.
This absolutely kicked me to the curb. I was ready to give up.
I felt as though we were fighting a game that couldn’t be won. The airlines would effectively work around the rules of the game any time they wanted. And there was no one to hold them accountable when they did lost, injured or killed an animal in their care.
Where Is Jack? is the only entity in the country (that I am aware of) that is working to make air travel safe for pets. We simply did not have the stick – or even the carrot – that would make it possible to beat the airlines at their own game.
If I kept going at this in this way, it was going to kill me.
So, I stepped away.
I thought maybe we were done. It all seemed too sad.
And why am I telling you this? So that you will understand that nothing ended when Jack crossed the Bridge. Jack was just the very very beginning of the story.
April 6, 2016 at 12:13 am
It’s amazing to me that it has been that long when it feels like yesterday. I never thought you stepped back, away from Where Is Jack. And I can understand your frustration throughout the whole ordeal and then seeing that nothing is really changing, can’t fight the “system”…. but I’ve felt all this time, what you did with Where Is Jack and all of your work on the Jack the Cat Facebook page was moving forward. I do know one thing, I’ve met so many wonderful humans and feel blessed to be any kind of small part of Jack the Cat. Whatever you have in mind, I will proudly support.
April 6, 2016 at 3:49 pm
Thanks Pam!! I know you’re ALWAYS there and totally supportive of anything that helps animals. You ROCK.
April 6, 2016 at 12:39 am
Reblogged this on Making Waves Outreach.
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April 6, 2016 at 2:52 pm
Don’t let these people win !!! Stepping back is fine and good, as it brings you back even stronger into the fight. Never think Jack’s loss was pointless or, even more so, your fight to get things “Corporate” to change has in any way failed. You have them running mega damage control now, every lost animal has to be media accounted for now, not just shuffled paper play. Vets and responsible pet parents are no longer being shuffled to the side and silenced. You showed us that even a single all alone person can and is heard and that real people do have net power!!! I’ve been 100% behind you every step of this long walk. Jack was lost in the bitter dreg end of my 5 yr fight to get my disability granted by Social Security. I found your “Where is Jack” story first on a night I was going to throw in the towel on my getting anything back that I had paid into since I was 15 yrs old. Waiting for Jack to be found gave me the courage to file one last appeal, I cried with you when Jack was found, out of Joy, and cried again out of sorrow when we all sad good bye. I’m sure every one out here, who has been behind you all this way, understands what you say now, on stepping back awhile. Just understand you have friends out here you may never meet that are with you 100% and would dread not hearing from you ever again. Through Jack you have become a part of our lives and we Love You and Jack ! I will never allow my “Pets” to fly without them having their own individually purchased seats, and that if their carry cases need to be TSA inspected that a closed room will be where it is done in front of me. They will always travel in their cases with a harness on and a leash attached to it and tied to the case or seat belt. Since Hubby and I have 6 fur children to travel with, plus my electric cart and Oxygen system, safety for the Fur Kids is of usually the road variety. Economically the idea that my 8 First class tickets on a plane out votes any guff from the “cheap seats” every time. Before Jack, travelling First class wasn’t even in my visualizing of reality, much less was using that form of travel to be a way of insisting my pets are cared for by me with me. Rest and then come back to us growling for airline blood with us again !
April 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm
Thanks so much for sharing this, Sandra! I had no idea that Jack inspired you to keep moving forward with your disability claim – and I’m so glad you received your benefits! Keep that good energy flowing. Peace.
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