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Pet Friendly Travel in the News

Travel Smart: More airports are offering pet-relief areas for your dogs, cats

Most major Canadian airports have pet relief areas, the U.S. leads the world in pet friendly airport facilities and only some European air travel hubs cater to the needs of animals on the go.

By Henry Stancu
July 28, 2017

About half of Canadian households include pets, and we spend more than $7 billion on them annually for food, toys and accessories, ranging from leashes to Halloween costumes, health, comfort, security and grooming services.

The Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) estimates our domestic cat population hit 8.8 million and 7.6 million dogs in 2016, so it’s no wonder pets are becoming as well-travelled as humans. And an ever growing number of people are willing to pay to have their animal pals fly away with them, as cargo or passengers.

As a result, major airports these days are accommodating animal needs with pet relief, hygiene and comfort zones.

The website Pet Friendly Travel lists 19 Canadian airports with pet-relief areas, ranging from grassy or gravel areas outside terminals to elaborate indoor facilities.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has, since 2013, had three outdoor Pet Relief Zones, two at Terminal 1 and one at Terminal 3, complete with synthetic grass, biodegradable waste bags and receptacles.

“They were a GTAA service initiative to ensure that our passengers travelling with their furry friends would have a comfortable location immediately accessible to the terminals,” says Erin Kennedy, a communications manager with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA).

“Passengers connecting with pets or who require access to the Pet Zone due to a delayed flight are required to exit the secure area then return through security screening to board their flight,” Kennedy explains, adding: “Our customer and terminal services team is working through the plan to add post-security pet areas in future.”

Vancouver International Airport, which opened Canada’s first indoor pet relief area near the U.S. departures gate a year ago, has artificial turf, touchless entry, lowered counters and other accessible features to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

And in April 2017, Calgary International Airport, which has three outdoor relief areas, opened an in-terminal pet relief area post-security in its domestic terminal.

Only a handful of major European airports provide such facilities in cities such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome, but the further east you travel in the world, the less you’ll find airports that cater to animal comfort needs.

The U.S. is by far the most pet-travel friendly country in the world, with airports in every state offering some form of pet-convenience area, from basic outdoor grassy areas to elaborate indoor pet privies.

International airports in Chicago (O’Hare), Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Los Angeles (LAX), Miami and New York (JFK) rank among the best when it comes to pet-relief areas.

Then there’s the Ark at JFK. Much more than a powder room for four-footed or feathered jetsetters, it’s the world’s first privately owned, 24/7 animal airport terminal, quarantine and full-service transportation and vet care centre for travelling animals of all species and sizes, from kitties to Clydesdales and cockatoos.

The sprawling 178,000-square-foot, $65-million, state-of-the-art centre is built to cater to every animal’s comfort and need.

With amenities such as a bone-shaped doggie splash pool and “pawdicure spas,” comfortable and soundproof kennel, stable and aviary, it’ll cost pet owners more than $100 to find pet relief here.

The Pet Friendly Travel website states that since August 2016, all U.S. airports facilitating more than 10,000 passengers a year have been required to provide an in-terminal relief area for service animals, law enforcement dogs, emotional support and therapy pets, which must be wheelchair accessible and near airline arrival and departure gates.

“Transport Canada has no regulations mandating pet or service animal relief areas at airports,” said Natasha Gauthier, media relations adviser with Transport Canada. “Each airport is responsible for deciding which nonmandatory services or facilities to offer travellers.”