Delta Airlines 'Lost My Cat'

Posted Jan 3rd 2011 11:23 AMUpdated Jan 3rd 2011 04:01 PM

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Michelle Evans of Riverside, California, last saw her much-loved Patch on Dec. 18, when she checked in for a Delta Air Lines flight from Cairo to New York's JFK. That's when the short hair white cat, with brown and black patches, went missing.

Evans tells AOL Travel News she hasn't given up hope of finding her pet, but her search has turned into a saga.

With Delta also losing a German Shepherd mix named Nala after she escaped from her crate – the dog was found dead on a highway near Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport on Friday – Evans says she is wondering just what is going on with the carrier's ability to transport pets.

Evans says she was moving home after attending graduate school and working in Cairo, when she brought Egypt-born Patch to the airport in a brand new and "super sturdy" dog carrier.

"He is too big for the cabin, at 12 to 13 pounds, and he just wont fit in the smaller carriers that go under the seat. I hated to do it (check him in the cargo hold) but I didn't have a choice," Evans says.

In Cairo, security officials at baggage check-in wanted to examine the carrier, but Evans says her cat was scared.

"So they peeked inside. He stayed inside the carrier," she says.

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 headed off to her flight, went through passport control and was getting her hand luggage checked by security officers when a Delta representative came and told her they didn't know what happened but 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 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," Evans says.

She asked if she could search the check baggage area for her cat but was told no, she was not allowed in the secure area. She says officials also declined to show her the carrier, even after she asked repeatedly.

"I wanted to know, did something crush my cat? I wanted to see evidence of the carrier, and I still do," Evans says.

She ended up getting on the flight without her cat, after officials in Egypt said if she didn't, with holidays, she wouldn't be able to get another flight until after the New Year.

"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.

"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 other animal rights organizations in Egypt and had friends put up fliers offering a $500 reward. She also started a Find Patch blog. Delta also later offered a reward for $350, and an official search is underway at the Cairo airport.

But Evans says she smells a rat. She says the story told in Atlanta with Nala escaping from her crate, and a similar incident where a small dog escaped from his crate in Mexico City in May (that dog was never found) all seem quite similar.

"There is something going on. I don't know what it is. But this is too coincidental. This is the same story," Evans opines.

Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott responds that the carrier 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."

Adds Elliott, "We take our responsibility of transporting our customers' animals extremely seriously."

An online petition, is calling for Delta to take more responsibility for lost dogs. It's supported by Michelle Reid whose bulldog, Guinness, died on a Delta flight from Germany in November (the dog was onboard despite the carrier's new ban on carrying snub nosed dogs out of health concerns for the dogs). Reid's shih tzu, Lola, being transported at the same time, was located after being sent on two wrong flights.

Meanwhile, for her part, Evans says she hasn't given up hope of seeing Patch again.

Photos, Michelle Evans

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