On our recent trip to visit family in Canada, Miles and I flew across North America. We caught a connecting flight in Calgary International Airport and then arrived at Toronto/Pearson International Airport. At the end of our trip, we flew out of Toronto Pearson. I had heard that both of these airports now have pet relief areas.
On one of our previous trips to visit family, our layover was so long that I asked the kind airport staff if they’d be willing to take Miles outside. They were very nice and commented on how well-behaved Miles was. I was lucky that they were willing to take Miles out for me. Thankfully, pet relief areas are becoming more available in airports.
Two Airport Pet Relief Areas
I am an American with a Nexus pass, and the kind of person who likes to check my bag and travel light. Therefore Miles and I had some extra time waiting for our flights on this trip. Before our travels I noticed that two of the airports we’d be stopping by now have new pet relief areas. Naturally I was curious, and decided to make checking them out a feature of our travels. I didn’t think much off it. I figured at the most, they’d be useful offerings, and at the least, I’d be able to rank them by how useful their internal designs were. It turns out I had no idea what would actually end up being important.
What makes a pet relief area in a major airport useful?
More and more airports are offering pet relief areas, which is fantastic! However, what I learned from my sleuthing on this trip is that not all pet relief areas are created equal. Location, I realized, is the most critical factor.
Calgary International Airport (YYC)
The first pet relief area Miles and I checked out was in Calgary International Airport. Fresh off of our first flight, I asked the airport staff where the new pet relief area was, and they were very excited to tell me where to find it. The entrance was a door, just like a human washroom. Hilariously enough, our first pet relief area felt very “Alice in Wonderland!” It was just like a human washroom but designed for dogs and their people! It was complete with a human sink and mirror, and on the side, rather than a stall, there was a little fake grass area with a staged fake fire hydrant. I told Miles he could “go pee,” and he looked at me a few times for re-assuring confirmation that indeed, I really was telling him it was “ok” to pee indoors — fake heavily scented hydrant or not! When he was satisfied with my response, the scents on the hydrant were enough to get him in the mood (boy dogs!), and he relieved himself. I then followed the instructions above the area and rinsed the hydrant off. Done! In and out in less than 5 minutes.
Airport: Calgary International Airport (YYC)
Date: September 2017
Pet Relief Area Location shown: Concourse B adjacent to Gate B34 in the Domestic Terminal Building
Notes: The pet relief area shown is the only post-security area currently offered. It is a fantastic example of a well-located and well-designed pet relief area! The others, all pre-security, are located at the arrivals levels via door 1, door 9 and door 17.
Official Information: Calgary International Airport Pet Relief Areas
Toronto Pearson International Airport (TTY)
On the way home, I checked my bag at the departures level of Toronto Pearson Airport, and then inquired about the available pet relief areas. I found out with some sleuthing that the three different areas currently offered are all outdoors — and are all near departures (when you are meeting family and getting to the car) or arrivals (when you are checking in). This means they are all PRE-security, and are outside of the actual airport: near the taxi cab areas, the pickup areas, etc. I felt a little disappointed exiting the airport and walking to a pet relief area — albeit nicely designed — that was right across the street from natural grassy places to walk a dog. I wondered to myself: How does this help people with service or guide dogs who are in-between flights? They have to journey all of the way back the way they came if they just checked their bag, or worse yet, they have go a VERY long way to the pet relief area, then journey all of the way back, and re-enter airport security again before they can catch their connecting flight!
Airport: Toronto Pearson International Airport (TTY)
Date: September 2017
Pet Relief Area Location: Terminal 3 Arrivals Level, curbside outdoors (Pre-Security)
Notes: This pet relief area is located outside of the airport. Currently Toronto Pearson only offers pet relief areas that are pre-security at: Terminal 1 departures level, Terminal 1 ground Level, and Terminal 3 arrivals level (shown below). This was a very nice pet relief area, but, it was quite a ways away from everything, and right across the street from other grassy areas.
Official Information: Toronto Pearson International Airport Pet Relief Areas
Pet Relief Areas, in Conclusion
Prior to this trip, it was my belief that all one would need to do prior to traveling was to look up whether or not an airport offers pet relief areas. However, I discovered that with pet relief areas, location is everything. You must research where the pet relief areas are: are they pre-security (outside of the airport where you enter or exit), or are they inside of the airport (where you will actually be waiting in-between flights)?
My final thoughts on the subject? First of all — Traveling with pets in-cabin is a privilege these days, often not available at all, and when offered, it is only available to small dogs. Pet owners should plan carefull, and be extremely courteous and mindful when traveling with dogs. The more well-behaved we and our dogs are, the better chance these privileges will be remain available. Secondly — We should advocate for pet relief areas that are post-security, even if these areas are only for service dogs and their handlers. I strongly believe based on my experiences that the option I experienced in the Calgary airport post-security should serve as a wonderful example of an excellent pet relief area, in both set-up and location. Service dogs and their handlers especially deserve this.
Those of us who fly the helpful airlines that allow smaller dogs in-cabin, and all of us who support service dogs and their people: let’s encourage airports to offer small and basic, yet well-placed pet relief areas. If not for all pets — then at least just for service dogs and their people.
Share your experiences and photographs by emailing me, and with your permission I will share them below to help others.
Submitted by: Katerine & Robin
Airport: Denver International Airport (DEN)
Date: September 2017
Pet Relief Area Location: Terminal C (Post-Security)
Notes: “I believe all three terminals (post security) have pet relief areas, and they all look similar to this one from terminal C.”
Official Information: Denver International Airport Pet Relief Areas