Where is Jack?

Making Air Travel Safe for Pets


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The End of the Temper Tantrum

This is the 2nd in a 4-part series. Catch up on the back story… Read Part 1.

So I wallowed a bit. More than a bit – a lot bit. For months I wallowed… wondering why bother?

And yet stuff was happening. Little stuff.

I saw things on the web and thought… I should post that on the Jack page. But I didn’t.

I heard about incidents out in the world and thought… I should blog about that. But I didn’t.

And then I went to this event and I heard about the incredible sense of despair people feel when they’re not doing what they know they should be doing with their short, precious life.

And I knew that was what I was feeling.

It wasn’t the despair of being unable to do anything. It was the despair of being unwilling to do what I knew I could do.

I had been having a temper tantrum. And it had to stop!!

So the airlines wouldn’t play nice – was I really that surprised? That was no reason to stop doing what I knew I could do. More importantly, it was no reason to stop DOING WHAT I KNEW I HAD TO DO.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 3.21.47 PMI had known since the beginning that educating pet parents was going to be an important part of our mission. And yet, in a certain way, it seemed so INEFFICIENT. After all, there were hundreds of thousands of pets flying by plane every year – and really only a handful of airlines (primarily just THREE) doing the flying. It just seemed like it would be so much easier if we could just get the airlines to do their job properly.

REALLY??

Is it efficient – or EASY – to try to work with people who simply don’t want to hear what you have to say??

DING DING DING – bells were going off. And for the first time in a quite a while, I felt the spark.

I knew what had to be done.  First and foremost – we had to educate pet parents about the dangers of flying with animals. And if that was all we did, so be it.

Karen never would have let Jack and Barry go under the plane if she had known the danger they were in.  We had talked about it, and I had some vague idea of the problem, but I didn’t know enough to talk her out of it.  After all, AA swore up and down the kitties would be safe.  They transported tens of thousands of animals every year with no problem, right?

Yeah sure.  Tell that to the kitty who was in the ceiling at JFK for 61 days.  Tell that to Karen.  Tell that to the thousands of people who followed Jack’s story.

Educating pet parents is the best chance we have to fulfill Jack’s legacy.

I knew we had had some success at this already – people had contacted me by phone, through this blog and through our Facebook page to ask questions, to use the materials we had available, and to tell us that what were we doing either helped them keep their pet safe when they flew – or in many cases, to tell me that they had decided to forego flying all together.

(Side note: To all those kitties that have had to endure cross-country drives because your mommies and daddies were afraid to fly with you – I’m sorry. But not really!)

The key was EDUCATION. And we needed to be doing A LOT MORE OF IT.

And to make that happen, we needed a plan.

 

 

 


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Into the Depths of Despair

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.despair

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.


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Delta: Using a Loophole to Make Pets Even More Unsafe

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 12.46.03 PMDelta Airlines announced this past week that they will no longer accept pets as checked baggage.  All of us who care about the safety of pets on planes should be jumping for joy, right?  This is going to keep animals out of the area below the plane and make them much safer, right?

WRONG.

By banning pets from traveling as “checked baggage,” Delta has done two things:

  1. Made it impossible for pet parents to travel on the same flight with their pet if that pet cannot be transported in the plane with them.
  2. Excused itself from having to report deaths/injuries/losses of pets.  Animals traveling on designated CARGO flights do not have to be reported to the Department of Transportation each month.  Delta will now have virtually NO PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY regarding its treatment of pets.

This is heartbreaking.  After waiting over two years for the new DoT rules that required airlines to more fully report animal incidents to be implemented, Delta has now found a way to get around the “problem” of more honestly accounting for their treatment of animals.

The three major carriers (Delta, United and American Airlines) have all made it crystal clear that they do not actually care about the animals they transport – they just want to make sure they aren’t harassed about the losses, injuries and deaths, which they consider a “minor” problem.

Of course, this may change quickly if it is expedient.  As the article and Delta’s own website mention, they do not allow snub-nosed and “bully breeds” to travel on passenger flights.  Yet Delta itself reported incidents involving not one but TWO American Bulldogs just during the month of September of this year (see lines 492 and 494).  Delta doesn’t seem to follow its own policies, so who knows what could actually happen.

While Where Is Jack? Inc. continues to advocate for change in both government regulations and airline industry standards, the best way to keep animals safe today is education:  please share this post, and spread the word to anyone you know who is considering flying with a pet who cannot be accommodated in the plane: DON’T LET YOUR PET FLY WITHOUT YOUR DIRECT SUPERVISION. Ever.  Not as checked baggage.  Not as cargo.  Not under any circumstances, ever.

If you or someone you know is facing a situation (like a move) where it seems that it will be impossible to get from Point A to Point B without putting your pet in the hands of the airlines, please contact us here at Where Is Jack? Inc.  CEO/Founder Mary Beth Melchior, Ph.D. is available to brainstorm ideas, and our team wants to help anyway we can.  Contact us via phone at 305-582-5884 or email at MaryBeth@whereisjack.org.

Spread the word, Friends.  We can’t let what happened to Jack keep happening.  Let’s keep our pets out of the airlines hands!!