Since May 2009 the Department of Transportation (DOT) has required all airlines to make sure there are service animal relief areas (SARAs) at airports, and escorts to those relief areas, for any passenger traveling with a service animal. As a result, airports everywhere have created and expanded animal relief areas that are open to all pets as well as service animals. Most animal and pet relief areas are located outside the airport terminals. Outdoor pet relief areas can range from no-frills grassy areas to fenced-in “pet parks” with all the amenities of a fully equipped dog park.
As of August 2016 federal regulation requires airports that service more than 10,000 passengers a year to establish at least one service animal relief area (SARA) inside each terminal. Although the requirement was designed to accommodate passengers traveling with service animals, pet owners and handlers working with law enforcement dogs also stand to benefit. Specially constructed facilities range from small, utilitarian spaces in obscure areas to entire rooms with finish materials that match nearby human restrooms. The areas must also be wheelchair-accessible and close to airline gates so service animals can access them regardless of whether they’re departing or arriving.
While many pet relief areas are merely small patches of fake grass in hidden corners of terminals, others are pet parks with real grass, faux fire hydrants and space to run and play. Airports across North America now offer post-security pet relief stations, including Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s Pet Relief Room complete with artificial grass covering, miniature fire hydrants and pop-up sprinkler systems to wash away liquid waste into a drain; and Detroit International Airport’s restroom for dogs with two patches of fake and real grass, and a sprinkler system to eliminate waste into drains below the grass.
A guide to in-terminal airport pet relief stations
Information on indoor and outdoor pet relief areas at airports in the U.S.
Top 10 Dog-Friendly Airports in the U.S.
The American Kennel Club’s pick of the top pet relief areas in the U.S.
Animal Relief Areas at Airports – Alaska Airlines
Check here for a list of animal relief areas at airports served by Alaska Airlines.
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