Stressed Out at the Airport? ✈️ Pet a Dog! 🐶
by Marissa Steingold
Delayed flights, lost baggage, pre-flight jitters. Travel can be anxiety-provoking! To make matters worse, the FAA has rolled back rules requiring airlines to allow Emotional Support Animals on commercial flights. Concerned Tombot enthusiasts have reached out to ask us whether Jennie will be available for airplane travel. The answer is YES!
While we are still working hard to bring you your Jennie, below are a few airport programs that provide access to live therapy animals before and after flights.
At Los Angeles International Airport, dogs from the “Pets Unstressing Passengers” (PUP) Program roam departure gates, offering cuddles and good cheer. This red-vested crew includes Ellie the golden retriever, a pug mix named Chubs, Chance - the outgoing shepherd mix - and a standard poodle named Duke, among other friendly faces. The dogs’ human handlers also provide helpful information regarding LAX projects and construction-related traffic.
Most airport therapists are canine, but a few other members of the animal kingdom are getting in on the act: Lilou, the piano-playing pig, has been delighting passengers at San Francisco International since 2016; mini horses visit Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport, and baby alligators from the Audubon Nature Institute slither around the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport baggage claim every Friday!
How long have airport therapy animals been around?
In the weeks following 9/11, passengers were nervous about flying again. So chaplain Kathryn Liebschultz decided to bring her friendly pup, Orion, to work at San Jose International Airport (SJC). Orion’s visits were so popular that SJC decided to expand the program. SJC passengers now receive regular visits from 25 different therapy dogs and 2 cats!
Are airport therapy dogs service animals?
In essence, airport dog therapists are pets with delightful personalities. Service dogs, contrastingly, are trained to help people with disabilities perform specific tasks, and you may have also seen detection dogs sniffing out drugs and bombs at airports. These are working dogs that you should not pet! While service and police dogs can bypass health codes, therapy dogs are generally subject to the same rules as regular pets.
Where can I find an airport therapy animal?
Many US airports have animal therapy programs, as well as a few abroad. Though some programs went on hiatus during the early pandemic, most are back up and running now. You can check your local airport’s website for more information.
So enjoy your flights, and look for these friendly faces and wagging tails at an airport near you!