Airport Pet Relief Areas

On our recent trip to visit family in Canada, Miles and I flew across North America to get there. On the way to our destination, we caught a connecting flight in Calgary International Airport and then arrived in 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. I decided on this trip to check out pet relief areas, and report my findings. And I found out a lot of useful information!

Airport 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 enjoyed 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 North American airports. The question is: how effective are the ones currently offered?

Two Airport Pet Relief Areas

I am an American with a Nexus pass, and I am 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 had new pet relief areas now. Naturally I was curious, and decided to make checking them out a feature of our travels.

Pet Relief Areas in airports: a simple bathroom break solution for in-cabin canine travellers? Or a more complex topic?

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.

Calgary International Airport (YYC) Pet Relief Area

The first pet relief area Miles and I checked out was in the airport in Calgary. Calgary was our connecting 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 I’d find it. I was told from where I was that it would be a long walk, but it only took us 2 minutes of brisk walking. (I have since come to learn that sometimes when they say long walk, and recommend a trolley, they mean it! This was an exception).

The entrance was a door, just like a human washroom. Hilariously enough, inside was like a human washroom but from Alice in Wonderland and 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 convinced him, 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 Pet Relief AreasAirport Pet Relief Areas Airport Pet Relief Areas Airport Pet Relief AreasAirport Pet Relief Areas

Calargy International Airport has 4 Pet Relief Areas. Three in the Arrivals level: Door 1, Door 9, Door 17, and One In-Termimal (shown above) area after security in Concourse B adjacent to Gate B34 in the Domestic Terminal Building.

Toronto Pearson International Airport (TTY) Pet Relief Area

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 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? 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 Pet Relief Areas Airport Pet Relief Areas

Toronto Pearson International Airport has 3 Pet Relief Areas. Terminal 1 Departures level: Exit doors at Aisle 15 and turn right. Terminal 1 Ground Level: Exit door S and turn right. Terminal 3 Arrivals level: Exit door A and turn left (shown above).

Pet Relief Areas, in Conclusion

Prior to this trip, it was my belief that all one would need to do prior to traveling is to look up whether or not an airport offers pet relief areas. However, I discovered that 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 carefully, 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 at 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 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 for service dogs and their people.

Share your experiences and photographs by emailing me, and with your permission I will share them here to help others.

10 comments on Airport Pet Relief Areas

  • Gail

    I agree 100%. In the USA now the weight limit for in cabin pets and the bag on most airlines has shrunk to 20 lbs. And, with the space under the seat in front of you limited they now limit the seat availability. All for $250 rt. which is a booming business for some airlines so you would expect that these areas could now be available for dogs post TSA. We are limited to 2 hours plus layover on flights cross country where we race to exit the airport, find the space for dogs outside and then check back in through TSA again. Sadly with most of our connections lately, we barely have time to make it to the next gate normally.

    • Emma (author)

      Hi Gail, And I agree with you 100%! The whole in-cabin pet situation is crazy. Miles and I have been unceremoniously removed from a flight, which we pre-booked and double, triple, etc checked months in advance — all because the particular airline had taken on extra passengers and decided to boot the person traveling with a dog. Nice! I was upset for myself, being stranded at midnight with no where to go — until I looked up what some veterans are facing when trying to travel with their PTSD dogs. And then anything I felt about my own experience melted away and I felt upset for those situations… Some airlines are supportive and should be rewarded with our loyalty!

  • Darcy

    Well said, Emma! I especially agree with the part about travelling in-cabin with a dog being a priveledge, for which we should be polite, courteous, responsible and law abiding. I’ve heard many dog owners tell stories of “getting away” with faking a Service Dog, letting their dog out of the Sherpa bag mid-flight, and lying about the dog’s weight to get in-cabin. Rude behaviours like these make it hard on every other dog owner, and especially hard on those who have and need a real service dog to fly with them. Good article!

    • Emma (author)

      That is all terrible Darcy. On this trip, I witnessed a girl walking her dog out of his carrier, come right up to me without asking “can my dog sniff your dog,” the dog yapped at Miles, and then, as she checked her phone, peed (a lot) on a post. This was right in line to board the plane. I was mortified. The worst part was, she pretended not to see, and just stood there. I had to bend down and mop the mess up with my spare napkins because — children were there! Etc!! I was very upset because I didn’t want anyone to think it was my mess.

  • Betsy Kiplinger

    I agree totally. Years ago, I flew with a puppy in cabin to deliver her to my brother from New Mexico to Washington state. I remember desperately worrying about her. She was doing so well, but it was hours and hours, and she was so very young. (She barely met age limit and is an Australian Cattle Dog)…We were in the human bathroom and I just wanted her to pee on some paper towels, poor baby.
    Anyways, she did great… and, my brother loves the puppy I picked out for him.
    Your comments about having a place for service dogs is very important.

    • Emma (author)

      Betsy, that is wonderful that you transported your friend’s new pup! You were a very good travel guardian! And I agree very much about service dogs. <3

  • Danielle

    Wow! I had no idea there was such a range of options among pet relief areas, even when they do exist. Oliver’s so picky about peeing, sometimes taking forever. I’m trying to imagine how many times I’d have to tell him to pee on that fire hydrant before he actually would, haha. Or maybe it’d smell like any outdoor hydrant that’s been peed on a million times and he’d go right away.
    It seems like the areas that are outside of security are not very helpful . . .

    • Emma (author)

      Hi Danielle, I felt the same way! I had this idea in my head that there would be these little oasis areas smack dab in the middle of the action of the airport, and there’d be lots of dogs and people there, milling about. Maybe like a smoking area I saw in a German airport? Haha. I do think Oliver would pee in the wonderfully designed Calgary pet relief area. It was perfect! The hydrant was too tantalizing to dogs to resist.

  • Gail

    One more thought….thanks for the heads up on in airport pet relief areas. We usually take our dog to outside pet relief areas when we have time in between connections. After reading your post, I researched the “in airport” areas and sent my husband and Bailey into one in the Denver airport as it was right next to our boarding gate. LOL, I think the smells overwhelmed her as she could not bring herself to pee, only backed herself up to a wall, reverse walking by picking up one leg at a time. Hopefully we will have an opportunity to try another on a future flight. Thanks again for bringing this to our attention.

  • Julee Jesser

    Yes it is I have a Service Dog and she has a condition that causes her to have to potty a lot I cannot afford the surgery because it cost over $5,000 and I’m not going to keep her on antibiotics cuz that’s not fair to her so I just take her out more times and I think there needs to be a place on airplanes for dogs to go to the bathroom and my dog is very important to me because she makes it so I do not fall and she fetches my medicine for me she doesn’t awful lot for me she gets my cane when I need it and she alerts me for a lot of things. If she was not around I do not know what I would do and she is a big dog she comes almost up to my waist service dogs are in need and I must two people that really need them and it hurts me bad when people have to fake that they have a service dog too so their dogs don’t have to be down below. Because to get a service dog it is well over between 15 to $30,000 so did they pay that much for a service dog or did they even put that much in for training a service dog. Because everything my dog does is very much worth everything I trained her myself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *