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Special dogs at airport give therapy to stressed passengers

April 23, 2014 Airport, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59Passengers inside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) were wary and tense as Finn strode into the terminal a day after a gunman had opened fire at the airport, killing a Transportation Security Administration screening officer. 

The date was 2 November 2013 and Finn was on his first mission. As he moved in and out of the boarding gate areas, the mood quickly shifted as passengers began to relax and smile at the giant therapy dog.



Finn is an Irish Wolfhound and is one of the largest members of the LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month.

The LAX PUP Program is one of America’s largest airport-run, therapy-dog programs.  Finn’s owner, Brian Valente, has been a part of the PUPs since its inception and recalls how Finn’s mighty presence and gentle strength comforted passengers the day after the shooting.

“When people normally see Finn, they are taken aback by his size.  On his hind legs, Finn can stand taller than some men,” said Valente.  “I think after the shooting, Finn attracted attention because he represented something comforting.  As passengers asked questions about Finn and started to pet him, I could see their bodies relax and their demeanours change,” Valente explained.

LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program

LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program

In celebration of their one-year anniversary and last week’s National Volunteer Week, the PUPs were recognised yesterday at the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners meeting.

Brian and Finn are one of 30 PUP volunteer-and-pet teams that have joined LAX’s customer service efforts to enhance the passenger experience.  PUP volunteers and their dogs roam airline boarding-gate areas, greeting passengers and helping reduce travel anxiety.

PUP volunteers see an immediate impact and transformation of passengers ranging from the well-versed frequent traveller to a first-time novice.  Anecdotes about the PUPs’ impact on passengers range from reducing the anxiety of those with a fear of flying to comforting those who may have just lost a loved one or even a beloved pet.

All PUP volunteers and dogs are registered with Therapy Dogs, Inc., a US organisation that registers, insures, and supports members involved in volunteer animal-assisted activities.  These activities include visits to hospitals, special needs centres, schools, nursing homes, and airports.

The dogs and handlers – both in red vests with the PUP logo – supplement the LAX customer service team that includes 300 Volunteer Information Professionals (VIP) and 150 Customer Service Representatives, all part of an effort to create a positive and friendly airport experience.

Edited by : Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Daphne Lowe Kelley says:

    Cheers to these PUP Volunteer and pet teams at LAX.

    Couldn’t help comparing them to what the PUP stand for in Australia.

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