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!
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.
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!
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.