Search for Lost Cat Becomes an International Saga
On December 18, Michelle Evans checked in for a Delta Air Lines flight from Cairo, Egypt to New York. That was the last time she saw her cat.
Evans had adopted Patch, a white cat with brown and black spots, while she was attending graduate school and working in Cairo. When she was ready to fly back home, she put him in a brand new and "super sturdy" dog carrier because he had to fly in the cargo hold.
"He is too big for the cabin, at 12 to 13 pounds, and he just won't fit in the smaller carriers that go under the seat. I hated to [check him as cargo] but I didn't have a choice," Evans says.
When Evans checked her bags, security officials wanted to examine the carrier. The cat was scared, Evans says, "so they peeked inside. He stayed inside the carrier."
Before saying goodbye to Patch, Evans says she "quadruple checked everything to make sure he was safe. He had food and water and blankets to keep him warm. He even had a collar on. I made sure everything was secure."
Evans then went through passport control and was getting her carry-on luggage examined by security officers when a Delta representative came and told her the cat had broken out of his cage.
"I was frantic, I was hysterical," Evans says, "And the first thing they did was shove $200 [for Patch's ticket] in my hand. I said, 'You've got to be kidding. This is the last thing I care about, the money. You lost my cat.'"
Delta officials told her they didn't know what happened, and then said the cat became enraged and broke down the front door of the cage, Evans says. "I was like, 'I'm sorry but my cat does not take steroids. There's no way he could have broken out.'"
She asked if she could search the baggage area for her cat but was told she was not allowed in the secure area. She says she asked repeatedly if she could see Patch's carrier, but officials refused to show it to her.
"I wanted to know, did something crush my cat? I wanted to see evidence of the carrier, and I still do," Evans says.
The officials in Egypt then told her that if she didn't get on her flight, she wouldn't be able to get another one until after the New Year (due to increased holiday travel). Evans ended up boarding the flight without her cat and without any idea what had really happened.
"I have people to care for [in California] and I couldn't stay. It was the most heart-wrenching thing I have ever had to go through," Evans says.
She flew to New York and on to Los Angeles, where she filed a complaint with Delta from her Riverside, Calif., home.
"In baggage claim at LAX, the man acted like he cared. But he kept asking me, 'did they give me the $200 back?' I said, 'get off the $200, this animal is in distress,'" she says.
Evans contacted shelters, PETA, and animal rights organizations in Egypt. Her friends in Cairo put up fliers offering a $500 reward. She also started a Find Patch blog and a Facebook page about Patch's disappearance. Delta later offered a reward for $350 and says an official search is underway at the Cairo airport.
But Evans says she thinks what happened to her cat is part of a larger problem with the way Delta handles animals. In December 2010, the airline lost Nala, a German Shepherd mix, at Atlanta's Hartsfield airport. The dog was later found dead. In Mexico City, a small dog escaped from his crate while under the airline's care; that dog was never found.
"There is something going on. I don't know what it is. But this is too coincidental. This is the same story," Evans says.
Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott responds that the airline transports hundreds of thousands of pets every year. "We even have zoos that entrust us with their exotics. These escapes are due to some unfortunate situations."
She adds, "We take our responsibility of transporting our customers' animals extremely seriously."
As for Evans, she says that although her search has become a saga, she hasn't given up hope of seeing Patch again.
[Source: AOL Travel News]