Therapy Dogs Help Ease Air Travelers’ Anxieties

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After the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, many people were terrified to travel by plane. In order to soothe air travelers, an interfaith chaplain volunteer at Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) brought her therapy dog to the airport and SJC realized dogs really help people to calm down in stressful situations. Nowadays, this airport has 13 teams of volunteer handlers and dogs in a K-9 Crew that eases passengers’ anxieties in terminals.

Since the program was highly successful, other airports followed in the footsteps of SJC.

Scott Elmore, spokesman for ACI-NA, an organization representing airports in North America, says the program offers stress relief to passengers and helps them overcome the fear of air travel.

‘’Airports are exciting places of much activity, but at times they also can be overwhelming for some travelers. As simple as it may sound, encountering a four-legged friend in the terminal can be exactly the experience that takes the edge off the airport experience.’’

Los Angeles International Airport launched its Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program on April 15, 2013 and Heidi Huebner, the PUP program director, says it has done wonders for travelers.

‘When the dogs are in the terminals you can feel the stress level drop. Expressions change. People look up from their laptops and their phones. They take pictures. They come over to pet the dogs. Conversations start between strangers. And even people just passing by begin to smile.”

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