Where is Jack?

Making Air Travel Safe for Pets


Pet Air Incident Reports Through 12/31/14

This is the final report based on the previous rule where carriers are required to only to report on animals who are traveling as “pets” (that is, they are given to the carrier and picked up from the carrier by the same person).  The new rule became effective January 1, 2015, and will be reflected in the reporting available in mid-March.

Pet Incident INVENTORY May 2005_December 2014.xlsx (downloadable)

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Pet Air Incident Reports Through July 2013

Below you will find the latest update to our comprehensive Pet Air Incident Report.  The latest entries are at the bottom.  In July 2013,  the airlines reported 5 deaths and 1 injury, involving 4 dogs, 1 cat and 1 ferret.  If you have any questions – or if you know of an animal that was lost, injured or killed while in the care of the airlines – please don’t hesitate to message us or contact Where Is Jack? Inc. Founder/CEO Mary Beth Melchior directly at 305-582-5884.

Pet Incident INVENTORY May 2005_August 2013


The Lessons of Two Years

Art by Lee Tingle.

Art by Lee Tingle.

Yesterday, we recognized and honored the second anniversary of Jack “going missing” – an understated way of saying that American Airlines illegally stacked the crates that he and Barry were traveling in, Jack’s crate fell and opened, and he took off and went into hiding.  Since that day, a huge amount of my time has been devoted to learning about all the ways that air travel is currently unsafe for animals, and thinking about ways to change that.

Over the course of the last 2 years, we have learned that there are not one, not two, but at least FOUR relevant players in creating safer air travel for pets:

  • Airlines: they were our first focus and they continue to be extremely important, especially for pets who are flying in cargo.  (And yes, I believe that no animal should fly in cargo, but we’re nowhere even close to that point.)
    • There is NO AIRLINE ACCOUNTABILITY for the vast majority of animals who currently fly in cargo.  These animals are flown as “commercial cargo” – generally by commercial breeders who have sold their animals either to an individual or to a retailer (read: puppy store).  If one of these animals is lost, injured or killed, the airlines do not report the incident under the law as it is currently written.  These laws are currently being reconsidered and Where Is Jack? Inc. has weighed in strongly on this matter.  The bureaucratic wheels are turning slowly, but we know that all comments have been read and the Department of Transportation is moving forward toward changing how airlines report on animals lost, injured and killed  while in their care.
    • In many cases, it is not actual airline employees but SUBCONTRACTORS who handle animals who are flying in cargo.  As was made clear in the case of Lynn Jones in Reno, most baggage is handled by employees of smaller companies – thus relieving the airlines themselves of the requirements of training workers and insuring that any LIVE ANIMAL who is transported via checked baggage or cargo is handled appropriately.  This makes our work much more difficult – it is not just a few airlines we need to deal with, but literally hundreds of small companies hired by the airlines.  The companies themselves are frequently changed, and there is high turnover within each company (as is generally the case with minimum wage jobs).  Advocating for high quality animal transport within this system turns out to be extremely difficult.
  • Airport Management: before Jack went missing, I had never even given a thought to who – if anyone – manages the airport as a whole.  Turns out this a a whole industry unto itself!!  And guess what — it’s even more complicated than the airline industry!!!  Airports can be managed by quasi-governmental organizations (like the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which manages JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports); they can be managed by cities (like the Philadelphia airport); they can be managed by private companies; and they can be managed by some combination of all of these (example: JFK airport is managed as a whole by the Port Authority, but Terminal 4 is managed by a private company (JFKIAT, LLC).  Why does this matter?  If you have an animal lost anywhere in the airport, you are going to have to deal with airport management.  And some management structures are much easier to deal with than others.
  • TSA: The Transportation Safety Administration screening process is THE SINGLE ENTITY THAT EVERYONE TRAVELLING WITH A PET is going to have to deal with, whether your pet is traveling with you in-cabin or flying as checked baggage or cargo.  And TSA has absolutely positively no responsibility if something goes wrong and your pet gets loose during the screening process.  We first learned about this hazard with the case of Xiaohwa, and this has been a focus of our attention for most of the last year.  We have been in contact with TSA, advocating that they change their procedures so that private screening is mandated for all animals.   We also want everyone to know that this is a vulnerable point for anyone travelling with an animal, and we seek to educate travelers so they can take appropriate action to keep their pet safe during the TSA screening process.
  • The Federal Bureaucracy (especially the Department of Transportation (DoT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Justice (DoJ, which implements the Americans with Disabilties Act): The DoT determines the reporting requirements for airlines transporting pets – thus (currently) giving the airlines the ability to obfuscate how many animals really are lost injured or killed.  The FAA will let you buy a seat for your cello, but won’t let you buy a seat for a dog crate that won’t fit under the seat.   The Americans with Disabilities Act governs the rules surrounding not only service animals but emotional support animals – which allows many people to travel with animals that are too big to fit under the seat.  In short – there are many parts of the U.S. national government which have some say in how animals are treated when they fly.

And when we put all this information together, what we learn is this:  it is very difficult to get anyone to take REAL RESPONSIBILITY if an animal is injured or killed while flying.  And if an animal is lost – like Jack was – it’s going to take incredible effort to just get through the bureaucracy to search.

What We Can Do
Where Is Jack? Inc. has evolved into a small core group of volunteers who do two things:

  1. We EDUCATE and ADVOCATE.  We provide instructional materials for pet guardians who are traveling.  We write this blog to keep the issue in the public eye.  We contact vets with information they can provide to their clients to help keep traveling pets safe.  We contact airlines, airport managers, government agencies, and other animal-welfare organizations to expose current problems and suggest solutions.  We contact the media with information and stories.  We do everything we can to make sure that no one involved with traveling pets – from pet guardians to the Department of Transportation – thinks pets and air travel is something to be taken lightly.
  2. We ASSIST IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS.  If an animal is lost, injured or killed, we want to help.  Most of the time, this means making the story public – and after two years, we have media contacts in a wide range of markets who know that we are very serious about the issue of pet air travel safety.  They take our calls, and they listen.  We can also assist if an animal is lost at an airport – we have experience contacting airport management at a variety of locations, and should the situation warrant it, we have many “tracking dog” contacts.  We can ask the army of FoJs to come out and create awareness by passing out flyers about the lost animal.  We want to help in any way we can!!   (Interestingly, though, one of the big lessons we have learned since Jack was found is  that the pet guardian his- or herself is the most important person in the search process, and we can only go as far as that person is willing to go.  In several recent cases, pet guardians have been unwilling or unable to pay for things like making flyers or hiring a tracking dog [which can cost as much as $3000-5000] – and we simply can’t do more than the pet guardian is willing to do.)

Make no mistake – FLYING WITH AN ANIMAL IS COMPLEX.  We’re trying to make it simpler, and most importantly, SAFER.  Thank you for your continued support!!!

PLEASE TELL ANYONE YOU MEET WHO IS TRAVELING WITH AN ANIMAL ABOUT THIS WEBSITE.  We want to make sure all animals have a safe, pleasant and uneventful journey!!!


On The Move… and Doing It RIGHT!!

In any given year, about 40 million Americans move – as the Brits say, they “change houses.”  (And “moving” is the  #1 reason people give for why they are surrendering their pets to a shelter!)

The vast majority of people move within the same county (67%, or about 30 million people each year).  These are generally moves of 50 miles or less.  They rarely – if ever – involve plane travel.  (Not that people always travel safely in their cars with their pets, but that’s a topic for another time!)

Another 10 million people move much farther distances – either within their state (in large states like California, Texas and Alaska, this can be almost a thousand miles!!), or between states.

In 2011, Karen Pascoe was one of those people.  She moved from New York to California with her cats, Jack and Barry.  And as everyone who follows this blog knows, the results were disastrous.

Karen’s move involved her flying from New York City to the Bay Area of California.  Karen flew, and because Jack and Barry were large cats who wouldn’t fit under the seat – and because there were 2 of them – she flew them as “checked baggage.”  Jack never even made it onto the plane due to the airline’s neglect – he became lost in JFK Airport.  61 days later he fell through the ceiling in the Customs & Border Patrol Office at JFK, and lived for 12 more days before the effects of malnutrition and the wounds from his fall became too much for him, and he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

And so our movement was born. We work to make sure what happened to Jack won’t happen again.

Of course, since then, we’ve heard many more tales of airline incompetence and neglect – some (like the recent case of Crystal Box and Boo-Boo) involved moving, though many did not.  But now we know more — and we know that whether one is traveling with a pet because of a move or just for a vacation, our pets are definitely at risk when they fly.

Essex is the white fur ball, Milly is the grey-bie...

Essex is the white fur ball, Milly is the grey-bie…

So much has happened in the last 2 years — Karen adopted Milly shortly before Jack was found (Barry was so lonely after 2 months without his best buddy).  Milly loved Barry so much!! But Barry was an older guy – and his health began to fail.  Heartbreak – he too crossed the Bridge, reunited with his buddy Jack.  But Milly was not designed to be an only child, so Karen adopted Essex.  And now Milly and Essex live together in a state of mushy, sappy, sweet loving kindness!!

And Karen has been a rock star for the company that brought her to Cali.  And now, that company is moving her back to the East Coast!  Not back to NYC, but to New England.


Well, YES.  Yes, she is flying.


And not just her side, but my side as well.

Milly and Essex will be flying under the seats (as “carry-on luggage”) – but because each person is only allowed one “carry-on” bag, and because each bag can only contain one kitty, there needs to be two of us.

And so I will fly to Cali, then to Boston with Karen and the kitties, then back home.  Because this is what it’s going to take to get Milly and Essex to their new home safely.


Karen’s already done excellent prep work:  she immediately went to the DryFur website – which carries ONLY the highest quality pet travel equipment!!  (And no – we don’t get anything for saying that.  But we want you to know that reputable retailers who care about pets really do exist!!)

Karen purchased the TSA Fast Pass Leash & Collar so Milly & Essex can get through TSA screening safely (though of course each of us will also be requiring private screening).  She also bought the Airline Soft Carriers and has been letting the kitties get used to them – they will travel safely and as comfortably as possible!!

Bottom line: moving with pets can be done, and it can be done SAFELY.  A little preparation, careful thought, time & energy can make it happen.  We know this!!

We want to share our experience with you – check into our Facebook page on Sunday and Monday (August 11 & 12).  We’ll chronicle the journey and let you know if there are any glitches!!

Karen and TEN MILLION other people will do a long distance move this year.  About 3.5 million of those will move with at least one pet.

Karen, Milly and Essex have this under control!!

And Where is Jack? Inc. is here to help the 3,499,999 others!!

(If you’re moving with pets and you need advice that you can’t find on this website, please call Mary Beth at 305-582-5884… we’ll help in any way we can!)IMG_4578

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Pet Air Incidents Through June 2013

As I reported two months ago, the DoT Air Incident Reports often fail to list one or more pet incidents that happened in any given month.  The case of Victor, Lacy Horner’s dog that was lost by Hawaiian Air (and recovered  – safely! – after a month), was finally added to the report during the next month.  This only happened because we sent information from Ms. Horner AND several news stories to our contact at the DoT.  Similarly another incident was also missing last month and was added to this latest report.

We wish the airlines would take their responsibilities more seriously and do the MINIMAL amount of reporting they have been mandated to do in a timely manner.

We also wish the government was willing to administer stringent penalties for failure to report.  Maybe the airlines would take this more seriously if there was a price to pay for failing to do so.

Our work goes on and on, unfortunately…

The latest version of Where Is Jack? Inc.’s complete inventory of Pet Air Incidents is available  at this link: petairincinvthru0613.xlsx


Avoid the Perils of TSA Screening (with video!)

As those of you who have been following this blog for a while know, traveling with a pet is difficult – and dealing with the airlines is not the only challenge. The case of Xiaowha highlighted how tragedy can happen as a result of the security screening process for pets who are traveling internationally. And my own experience with flying Maggie the cat to Bozeman, Montana (see Facebook posts from January 2013 for more about our journey) taught me that asking for what you need using TSA’s language (e.g., PRIVATE SCREENING) is critical to keeping your furry baby safe when you travel.


Kitten and transporter doing TSA check-in at DFW, 7/7/13.

But what if TSA isn’t following their own procedures?

On July 7, 2013, a shelter cat (8-week-old kitten, actually) from Arlington, TX was being transported from Dallas-Fort Worth airport to Seattle-Tacoma airport via Alaska Airlines. The transporter was someone who had answered a CraigsList ad looking for help with a transport. She was not an experienced handler. An experienced and travel-savvy volunteer from the shelter (FoJ Debbie Daugherty McClendon) accompanied the transporter in their dealings with Alaska Airlines and to the TSA screening line. Ms. McClendon requested that the transporter and kitten be placed in a private screening room, but she was told that no such thing existed at that location. They asked another agent and were then told the same thing. At that point, the transporter became uncomfortable with pressing on the TSA officers for private screening, took the kitten out of the bag, and carried her through screening while the bag went through the conveyor belt x-ray machine. LUCKILY, nothing happened. Kitten was returned to its carrier, and kitten and transporter made it to Sea-Tac and to the kitten’s new family and home without any problem.

The WIJ team was HORRIFIED by this whole incident. The TSA website clearly states that “passengers can request private screening at any time” – implying that private screening is always available!! Where, then, were the private screening facilities at this terminal in DFW – a huge and busy airport??

It took a little time, but the TSA did finally give us some information. Their response:

“At the E15/16 checkpoints, we do not have the facilities of a “private room”
however, the private screening is completed away from the checkpoint in
another facility that is semi private. If you fly regularly with this
airline you might want to go through the E8 checkpoint where we do have
a “private room” in the checkpoint.”

So, it seems, there is more code to know.  The bottom line is, though, that at particular gates in particular airports it may not always be possible for TSA to do a private screening that will allow us to fly safely with animals — and particularly with a cat or kitten.

In response to this information, we’ve made a little video to explain a procedure that provides a some insurance in case you and your cat or kitten ever find yourself in the predicament that Debbie Daugherty McClendon and that transporter found themselves in. You don’t want to have to rely on luck – especially if your kitty is more than a few weeks old!!

(And if you’re interested, the cat harness pictured in the video is available from our friend Lisa at DryFur.tv – tell her Jack sent you!!)


Pet Air Travel Incidents Through March 2013… EXCEPT (at least) ONE!!

Feel free to download our most updated inventory of the Pet Air Incidents as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation through March, 2013.


Interestingly, we know they’ve missed at least one incident. Well, the DoT didn’t exactly miss it…. Hawaiian Airlines failed to report it.

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 5.29.22 PMOn March 24, the Horner family was moving from Honolulu to Los Angeles with their two dogs when one of the dogs – Victor – escaped when his crate fell from the loading ramp. Victor’s escape received media coverage from KHON, as did his reunion with his owner one month later.

I became aware of the incident when Laci Horner contacted me through Facebook about a week after the dog was lost.

The incident fits all the criteria for reporting by Hawaiian Air – Victor was traveling with his owners and was lost for “more than a few hours.”

Why didn’t Hawaiian Air report it??

I don’t have an answer for that, but I think most of you know what I’m thinking… they didn’t report it because THERE IS NO ONE TO MAKE SURE THAT ALL INCIDENTS ARE REPORTED.

How many more incidents actually happened in March that weren’t reported?  WHO KNOWS!!!

I asked our contact at the Department of Transportation to explain how the DoT cross-checks to make sure that airlines are reporting all incidents that occurred.

He replied that he would check into this, but failed to answer my question about cross-checking.

Shocking. NOT.

If you hear about an incident of a pet being lost, injured or killed while in the care of an airline, please contact me through this blog, through our Facebook page (Jack the Cat is Lost in AA Baggage at JFK) or call me or drop me a text at 305-582-5884.

Mary Beth