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Pet Ports
More airports offer relief for you and your dog--it's the law.
American Airlines recently opened a pet park on the departure level of its terminal at JFK airport.

While every airport has plenty of well-marked restrooms for people, spots for Spot to take care of business are harder to find. That problem may soon be solved, thanks to a Department of Transportation regulation that now requires airlines to make sure there’s a fenced, accessible, pet relief area at each airport they serve. The law was designed to make facilities available for travelers with service animals, but because it’s been the airports, not the airlines, that have built most of the pet relief areas, these spaces are open to all.

Some airports, such as Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, viewed pet parks as desirable passenger amenities and have had well-appointed pet parks in service for years. Other airports are just getting around to putting in parks for pets. In June 2008, Philadelphia International Airport opened seven Pet Ports, located on the departures road and outside the baggage claim areas. Pee patches for pooches opened recently at Boston Logan International Airport, Oakland International Airport, Tucson International Airport and many others.  McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas spent about $5,000 improving its three pet relief areas, adding chain link fences, pea gravel and dog waste bag dispensers. At El Paso International Airport, the pet park was made using recyclable materials salvaged from prior terminal projects. And just a few weeks ago, American Airlines officially opened a pet relief area on the departure level of its terminal at JFK airport.

How to find an airport pet relief area
While an increasing number of airports now have pet relief areas, it can be a challenge to sniff them out. Here are some tips to help you out before you leave home.

  • Check the airport website. Some airports list the location of the pet relief areas under “passenger services,” but some airports list that information in a section marked “Special Needs” or “Special Services.” You may need to poke around.
  • Call the airport information desk. The folks who staff those lines are usually quite knowledgeable about the airport facilities and no doubt get that question all the time.
  • Call your airline. It’s likely the reservation agent will suggest you call the airport, but it’s worth a try.
  • Print out this chart, put together by the folks at Alaska Airlines. While it doesn’t include all the pet parks at all airports, it’s fairly inclusive and detailed. Many websites that offer tips for traveling with pets are also putting together lists.  
     

At the airport, ask an airline representative or one of the volunteers at an information desk, or head outside; most pet relief areas are located near the airport baggage claim area. In a pinch, there’s usually a patch of grass nearby.


 

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Harriet Baskas writes MSNBC.com's weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler. She is the author of the Stuck at the Airport blog and a columnist for USATODAY.com. msnbc.msn.com

Photo courtesy American Airlines.

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