John F. Kennedy International Airport
(Picture Credit: David Jay Zimmerman/Getty Images)

Cat Rescued After Escaping & Spending Three Weeks On JFK Airport Tarmac

Salvatore Fazio, a doting cat parent, got quite the fright when he landed in Italy to discover his baby, Ettore, wasn’t on his flight at all. Fazio checked his feline friend into cargo properly at JFK airport, but somehow, Ettore escaped his carrier.

When news of the incident spread on social media, a few passionate feline enthusiasts stepped in. They reached out to Long Island Cat Kitten Solution, a local non-profit animal rescue group.

John Debacker, Vice President of this group, is well-known for his heroics on the behalf of pets in the area. Less than a year earlier, Debacker helped to find a cat in a similar situation, lost in La Guardia Airport. The cat was found hiding in the ceiling!

Finding A Lost Cat At A Busy Airport

Thanks to his previous experience, Debacker was familiar with the challenges of searching for a lost animal at an airport. “It’s not uncommon for pets to escape from baggage handlers and become lost in airports, or on runways,” he explained to Patch.

“It was quite difficult to get clearance. My friend Teddy Henn and I were hanging flyers in the terminal when a Port Authority worker noticed a collar found near the runway’s edge, by the water, matched the flyer description,” said Debacker.

Eventually, Debacker was able to secure clearance from the Port Authority, after Fazio formally appealed, but it took weeks.

“At first, we were losing a little hope catching Ettore because it’s been so long and we didn’t know what could have happened to him,” Debacker relayed to News12 The Bronx.

“After the collar was found, we thought he could have been attacked, or he could have even drowned since it was right near the water,” he added.

Clever Usage Of Cameras

Once Debacker had the clearance, however, he was able to set up an overnight camera that caught sight of Ettore. From there, he knew where to stage a humane trap with a camera that would send an alert.

That same night, Ettore was safely captured, only a few pounds lighter with a few nose scratches, reported the New York Post.

Truly, a best-case scenario.

“The owner was very happy,” said Debacker. He told Patch that the feline is staying temporarily with Fazio’s girlfriend until he can reunite with Fazio in Italy.

While Ettore’s story has a happy ending, it reminds us all as cat parents that we need to be safe when traveling with our pets. CatTime has a full guide for flying with your cat by airplane here.

Have you ever traveled by plane with your cat? What would you do if your kitty escaped like Ettore did? Let us know in the comments below!


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