Pets at PET Airport make air travel less stressful

Pets at PET Airport make air travel less stressful

If you’re feeling stressed the next time you pass through Trudeau International Airport, look for the wagging tail.

A squad of 30 dogs is now patrolling the airport’s domestic and international zones.

No, they’re not sniffing out contraband. The YUL Pet Squad has been on the scene since early October, offering a calming presence at the bustling airport.

The dogs are there in shifts, and you’re most likely to see them on weekday evenings and on weekends.

Aéroports de Montréal spokesperson Anne-Sophie Hamel said the pilot project was put in place after they saw how airports in Edmonton, Vancouver and Halifax had success bringing some furry friends into their terminals.

She also said travellers are often drawn to the dogs in the security canine unit.

“They cannot pet them because they are working, they are on duty,” she said.

So, they brought in some dogs that are there especially for head pats.

“The response was very good,” she said.

After a successful first month, the program has been extended to the end of the year.

‘Once one person comes, they all come’

Lesley Hutchins and her six-year-old German Shepard Taighe are part of the YUL pet squad.

At first, she says, people tend to be a little hesitant to come up to Taighe. But once she gives an approving nod, “You watch their faces, and they smile.”

“Once one person comes, they all come.”

Hutchins and Taighe have made four visits to PET Airport so far, and she plans to make another four before the end of the year.

“He’s aloof,” she said of her dog. “He’s not going to go up to people, but he’s so calm. It’s worked out really well.”

Carson, a two-year-old golden lab, is known as the jokester on the squad. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

The Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Québec selects the dogs, and if they meet the airport’s security criteria, they’re approved to join the pet squad.

Pet owners who would like to participate in the program with their cuddly companion can volunteer.

They have to complete a training course and visit the airport with their dog, to ensure their pet is comfortable in the noisy setting.

Don’t hesitate to walk up and say hello before you continue to your gate to take your flight.

The dogs have been trained not to approach you, to ensure travellers with allergies or a fear of animals are not disturbed.

With files from Sarah Leavitt

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