With more and more people traveling with their pets, it's no wonder that airports have become popular locations for dog parks or pet relief areas for smaller spaces. Even for pets that are used to traveling it can be a stressful time, especially in busy airports and after long flights. As most airports require non-therapy dogs to be in a carrier during both their flight and time spent in the terminal. it's no surprise that many airports today are making an effort to provide services to people and their dogs. As a result, dog parks and pet relief areas can be found outside and/or inside many major airports throughout the U.S.
Some airports are going above and beyond, and increasing services for pets, as well as opportunities to interact with a pet in times of stress. One example is Buffalo Niagara International Airport. As with many airports, they have a dog park located outside of the secure areas of the terminal, so that travelers can allow their dog to stretch and play prior to and after exiting from secure areas. These dog parks provide a much-needed respite where dogs can get relief before heading out on a flight, or a car ride home.
In addition, Buffalo Niagara is one of a few airports in the US that offers a therapy dog service.The therapy dog program started at the airport about five years ago when local volunteers noticed that other airports had started offering the service, geared towards helping customers de-stress while waiting for their flights. Whether a flight is delayed, a traveler is dealing with a personal crisis, or children need playtime with a furry friend, airport therapy animals provide a small reprieve, and their popularity has seen programs pop up in airports around the world, from the U.S. to Canada, and recently to the U.K. Debbie Braun, the head of the SPCA's Paws For Love program, said she had seen an article about therapy dogs at the airport in San Jose, Calif., and she thought this could work in Buffalo. "It's a great stress reliever," Braun said. As a reluctant traveler herself, Braun researched her idea and brought it to the attention of Bev Halligan, customer service superintendent for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority at the airport, who in turn presented the idea to William Vanacek, the NFTA's director of aviation. The idea was approved and therapy dogs started going to the airport in November 2013, and Buffalo became one of the first half-dozen airports in the country to offer this service. While they are technically "at work" while at the airport, these dogs and their handlers appreciate the services a dog area can provide as well.
While the outdoor dog park at Buffalo Niagara is a great help to dog owners at the airport, those who have just emerged from a long flight or are making connections may not have the time or opportunity to leave the airport to find this dog-friendly area. To help in this regard, Buffalo Niagara has recently added an indoor dog area, located between airport gates 11 and 14, to provide a much-appreciated stop to dogs and their owners. "We are offering it to help our many service/dog owners and make the airport as pet-friendly as possible," Helen Tederous, spokesperson for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. The area utilizes colorful equipment, a waste station with bags, and "Pup Turf" a special surface treated with antimicrobial properties. Opened in 2019, the area is already well received by those traveling through Buffalo Niagara International Airport. They join a number of airports, such as Atlanta Hartsfield or Los Angeles, CA, increasing post-security dog relief services, in order to ensure that all travelers are as comfortable as possible.