PUP makes this a feel good Friday.
The PUP program – Pups UnStressing Passengers – has been at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) since 2013.
Pups put on red vests that say “Pet Me” and parade around the airport giving relief and some puppy kisses to stressed passengers.
LAX is the third busiest airport in the U.S. That adds up to lots of delayed flights, lost luggage, long layovers and, increasingly, fear of terrorism. The airport started PUP to help distract people from some of the annoyances and anxiety that go with flying. The PUP dogs were especially in demand after someone shot a TSA officer in 2013.
This October, LAX increased the number of comfort dogs in its terminals after the Las Vegas shooting. “Due to senseless shooting in Las Vegas, there are extra #LAXPUPs (Pets Unstressing Passengers) in terminals to comfort & visit w/ passengers,” LAX tweeted.
PUP dogs have to have at least a year of experience working with a recognized dog therapy organization. They have to be at least two years old and privately owned. LAX says the role of the PUP handlers is to:
- Relieve passenger stress and anxiety
- Inform and assist passengers with questions and wayfinding
- Promote the PUP program and LAX projects by handing out trading cards featuring the PUPs and airport highlights
“People light up when they see the dogs. Their minds go to a different place,” said PUP volunteer Naomi Jost. The PUP program is so popular, it even has trading cards. “Kids love them.”
Other airports have followed in PUP’s pawsteps.
PUP Program Director Heidi Huebner has helped 50 other airports start similar programs. They have different names and some even have different animals. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has miniature therapy horses and San Francisco International Airport has a pig.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport has certified therapy dogs, which are part of the CLT Canine Crew. Each dog wears a Pet Me vest and the handlers have CLT Canine Crew t-shirts.
If you’re flying somewhere for the holidays and packing a load of stress, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to fly through an airport where you can pet a PUP.