Jack the Cat charity advocates for pets as passengers

Jack the Cat charity advocates for pets as passengers
By Ivan Pereira

Jack the Cat may have gone to that big sandbox in the sky nearly two months ago, but that has not stopped his supporters from spreading his story to prevent future pet tragedies.

Mary Beth Melchior, the Miami woman who created the “Jack the Cat is lost at JFK” Facebook fan page, has started a new blog, whereisjack.org, that has been pushing for airlines to treat fliers who travel with pets with more respect when it comes to their animals’ safety.

Melchior, an animal activist, has started to promote her site with a charity T-shirts and tote bags that show one of the last images of Jack and asks “Do pets belong in cargo?”

Aside from promoting an issue that is dear to her, Melchior said the proceeds from the $20 to $30 shirts will help pay the nearly $5,000 that volunteers spent when they were looking for Jack at John F. Kennedy International Airport for two months.

“I didn’t want anyone to go into debt over this,” she said.

Karen Pascoe, Jack’s owner, was planning to fly with the cat and his feline brother Barry from New York to California Aug. 25 when he got lost in American Airline’s baggage room at JFK Airport. Jack’s story touched the heart of pet lovers across the nation, and several tri-state area fans combed JFK for two months.

Ultimately, the cat fell from the ceiling of the customs room at the terminal Oct. 25 and was found to be malnourished. Crews rushed the pet to a Queens vet hospital and he was later transferred to a Manhattan facility, where he was placed in an ICU.

Jack’s injuries were too extreme for vets to treat and he died Nov. 6. Melchior said his death devastated Pascoe, since she moved to the West Coast to start a new job and her cats were like family to her.

“When she received Jack’s ashes and a scrapbook from [the vet hospital], she was sobbing,” Melchior said.

Although American Airlines flew Pascoe back to New York for some of the searches and apologized for losing Jack, the activist said its policy of flying pets as cargo poses a serious danger to all pet owners.

Despite having secure kennels and other holding apparatuses, hundreds of pets get lost every year in airports around the country and suffer serious injuries, according to the activist. Melchior has been posting stories on the blog about efforts to change airline rules and other examples of pets that have gone missing during flights.

“What we want people to do is to keep talking about Jack. It’s not safe to fly pets as cargo,” she said.

Log on to whereisjack.org for more information.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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