When we first began Where Is Jack? Inc. as an organization – as opposed to the Facebook page where this all started – we took a look at what had happened to Jack and all the points where things could have taken a turn for the better. Here’s a few highlights from our brainstorming session:
- Karen could have chosen not to put Jack and Barry in checked baggage
- Karen could have bought a different carrier
- The baggage handlers could have been better educated about how to transport crates containing live animals
- American Airlines could have had a procedure in place to deal with animals that were lost while in their care
- Port Authority (which manages all of JFK airport) could have had a procedure in place to deal with animals lost on airport property
- There are no government or other penalties in place that would encourage an airline or airport to respond effectively to a lost animal.
It became clear that fulfilling Jack’s legacy – that what happened to him should never happen again – could be attempted in a wide range of different ways. And none were particularly simple.
For a while, we had all of these areas moving forward just a little bit – AND we were helping pet parents whose furry family member had been lost as a result of airline incompetence. It was a lot to deal with!
All the while, I kept thinking that attempting to deal with the airlines and/or airports was pointless. From their perspective, we were just a bunch of crazy ladies who were overly concerned about animals. No amount of battering in the media seemed to bother them. And we definitely could not give them anything they cared about (read: enough MONEY) to have them change their policies and procedures.
And that is probably why I got a bit burnt out: I was fighting a fight I really didn’t see how we could win.
So that is why I am now convinced it is important to FOCUS and not be distracted by all the other ways we possibly could go about fulfilling Jack’s legacy.
EDUCATION is the key. It is what we can do now, and it is what we can do well. And while there are a wide range of pet parents who would benefit from learning about how to insure the safety of an animal during air travel, for the foreseeable future we will be focusing our efforts on three primary groups:
- People who enter their dog in dog shows
- People who enter their cat in cat shows
- People who are moving
Why these three groups?
Dog and cat show people travel with their pets often – sometimes every weekend. And while many times they are traveling by car, they are also likely to have to travel with their pet by plane at least a few times per year. Though it would seem that these folks would be less likely to need any further information, even the most prized animals have been subject to airline incompetence – Vivi being the most memorable of these cases.
People who are moving have no choice but to move their pet with them. (And yes – I do know that the number one reason pets are surrendered to shelter is “moving.” That is a different discussion for a different day.) Karen never would have chosen to fly with Jack and Barry if she wasn’t moving. People who are moving may have never traveled with their pet before. Helping them insure the safety of their pet makes the move less stressful for the whole family.
There is one more obvious group that I haven’t mentioned as a targeted group: people going on vacation and taking their pet. This is a particularly difficult group to reach, since placing ads on the travel websites won’t really work because the major airlines all require pet parents to call them directly to book a pet to fly. We make our website easily accessible to people traveling with pets by insuring it meets Google’s indexing requirements, but until we have a substantial marketing budget, people vacationing with their pets will not be a major focus area.
Indeed, targeted education for the three groups I mentioned is itself a large undertaking – but our success working in these areas will allow us to move forward with credibility and knowing that we are making a difference. And that will allow us to continue to grow and better serve pet parents who are flying with their dog or cat for whatever reason.
One final note: we will ALWAYS continue to help in situations where a dog or cat has been lost on airport property. I have gotten calls about lost animals from as far away as Qatar. Search and rescue missions outside the U.S. and Canada are very difficult for us to help with, because we don’t know the laws of the country and we may not have any contacts to help us. But we are pretty well-versed in what to do at American airports, and we are always willing to do what we can to help in any lost cat or dog situation anywhere in the world.
Tomorrow – Part 4: We Need YOUR Help To Succeed