A little over a year ago, I moved to California when a tragic event happened. I was traveling with my 2 cats from JFK airport. It was a stressful event and a stressful time, as I was leaving my beloved New York City to take a challenging new job across the country. I researched and did my homework. I was worried about moving the cats but followed all of the airline instructions to the letter. I figured if I trusted a major airline like American Airlines to get me across the country they could get my cats there too.
Little did I know how unsafe it really is to travel with pets.
Sadly, my situation went horribly wrong. American Airlines mishandled the crates and my beautiful cat, Jack, went missing. My story touched the hearts of animal lovers around the world. We were all hopeful that he'd pull through after he miraculously fell from the ceiling in Terminal 8 at JFK where he was lost. He was alive after being lost for 61 days. It was amazing, but the trauma of being lost and trying to survive on his own left him severely malnourished and dehydrated. He was unable to recover.
I've learned so much since then.
Every time I hear about another tragedy in the airport it hurts. When I think about the problem, it's highly complex. There's a bunch of agencies and a bunch of carriers and ports and logistics. But I want to start simple. One heartbreak at a time until there aren't any more heartbreaks. The last heartbreak I had was when a cat named Xiaohwa was lost during the TSA screen process, also from JFK.
For pet owners that need to travel, they need to clear security with their pets. For owners traveling with cats, you need to take the cat from the carrier and hold them while you take them through screening. Picture pulling a frisky kitty from the cat carrier in an open airport terminal and walking them in your arms through security. Especially at an airport like JFK where 28 million passengers travel through every year. It's chaos and it's not safe.
The TSA needs a new policy on how to handle pets, including asking pet owners if they'd like to be screened in an enclosed room to reduce their pet's stress and establishing a protocol on how to react if an animal does get loose.
Sounds simple. It is simple. It could stop a lot of heartbreaks.
Please immediately implement a policy on how animals should be handled at all points of the screening process. The policy should address offering pet owners an enclosed room for the comfort and safety of their pet; how to involve experienced animal handlers when it's necessary for the safety of the agent, pet, and travelers; and a protocol for working with the pet owner if the animal does get loose or injured during the screening process.
These are simple steps that will prevent heartbreak, enhance safety, and reduce the TSA's liability with traveling pets.