Animals

Move over therapy dogs, New Orleans Int’l Airport has ‘gators

 

You’ve likely seen or heard about the therapy animals that visit airports around the country to help de-stress travelers.

Most airports have dogs, but San Franciso International Airport’s team includes a pig, Denver International Airport’s team boasts a cat and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport regularly hosts minature horses.

What’s next?

How about alligators?

On Fridays at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport the Audubon Nature Institute brings live alligators to the baggage claim area and encourages passengers to pose for an “MSY Gator Selfie.”

Brave travelers can also touch the baby gators, which are one to three years old and up to three feet long, according to an airport spokeswoman.

MSY airport does have a dog therapy team – the MSY K-9 Krewe (a nod to the krewes, or groups, that organize parades and balls in New Orleans) – but alligator visits and gator selfies are another way the airport is working to enhance the passenger experience.

Bees delay a plane in South Africa

As I reported in a recent At the Airport column for USA TODAY, airports deal with all sorts of unwanted wildlife, from worms to whales.

At King Shaka International Airport in Durban, South Africa, the unwanted wildlife was a swarm of bees.

On Sunday, Mango Airlines reported that a swarm of  about 20,000 bees was discovered building a nest inside on of its airplane engines, causing a delay to several flights.

Bee removal experts were called in and successfully gathered up and removed the bees. According to South Africa’s News 24 website,  the bees were taken a beekeeper’s home and will be likely be transferred to an area macadamia farm or to another beekeeper.

Incidents of bees swarming airplanes aren’t all that unusual. In March, 2017, an American Airlines flight from Miami to New York’s JFK airport was delayed by about four hours due to a swarm of bees that had landed on the side of an airplane.

Bee careful out there.

Miami Int’l Airport and the Miami Hound Machine

The ‘Miami Hound Machine’ – a team of therapy dogs – is coming to Miami International Airport.

Miami International Airport’s new therapy dog program, charmingly called the Miami Hound Machine, is making its debut today.

The team’s five volunteer K-9 Ambassadors – Abbey, Belle, Dash, Donovan and Pico – and their owners will be on site today with airport officials for a press conference. The pups will then go to work inside Concourse D, visting with passengers and being cute.

Members of the Miami Hound Machine are all certified therapy dogs from the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and will be on duty in the MIA terminals during peak travel periods.

Therapy dogs at airports are a growing trend. So are the types of animals on the therapy dog teams – San Francisco International Airport’s Wag Brigade has a pig (Lulu); Denver International Airport’s CATS program (Canine Airport Therapy Sqaud) has a cat named Xeli, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) often has a small herd of miniature horses stop by.

Have you encountered a member of an animal therapy team at an airport? Thumbs up or down?

Southwest Airlines tighens rules on emotional support animals

Southwest Airlines is the latest airline to tighten its policies on passengers traveling with trained service and emotional support animals.

The new rules go in to effect Monday, September 17, 2018.

Under Southwest Airlines’ new rules, each customer will only be able to travel with one emotional support animal (or ESA) and ESAs will be limited to only cats and dogs.

During travel, the airline will always require each ESA to be kept in its carrier or be kept on a leash.

Customers traveling with ESAs will continue to be required to present a complete, current letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure.

As part of these new policies, Southwest is also recognizing fully-trained psychiatric support animals (PSAs) as trained service animals.

The airline said it informally accepted PSAs as trained service animals in the past. Now the airline will formally accept this type of service animal. PSAs are animals that are specially trained to perform a task or work for a person with a mental health-related disability. To travel with these animals, the airline will require only a credible verbal assurance.

When it comes to traditional trained service animals, Southwest says it is going to adopt the DOT guidelines and accept only dogs, cats, and miniature horses.

“For the health and safety of our Customers and Employees, unusual or exotic animals will not be accepted,” the airline said in a statement and, “As is the case today, the Customer with the disability must be able to provide credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal.”

“We welcome emotional support and trained service animals that provide needed assistance to our Customers,” said Steve Goldberg, Southwest’s Senior Vice President of Operations and Hospitality said in statement, “However, we want to make sure our guidelines are clear and easy to understand while providing Customers and Employees a comfortable and safe experience.”

Southwest’s new rule announcement comes affter Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United have also updated their policies.

What do you think of the new rules? Fair?

Kitten Cuddle coming to Charlotte Douglas Int’l Airport

August 8 is International Cat Day.

To mark the day, Charlotte Douglas International Airport has scheduled a Kitten Cuddle on Wednesday, August 8 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Atrium in front the 1897 Market.

The plan is to have at least 10 kittens on site and available for cuddling, so there should be plenty of cats to go around.

The kittens are coming to CLT courtesy of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control, which currently has more then 250 cats and dogs available for adoption.

Animals in the airport are nothing new at CLT.

While the Kitten Cuddle is a first for the airport, the CLT Canine Crew is mde up of 31 four-legged volunteers who are often on duty to greet passengers. Look for the pups wearing “Pet Me” vests.

‘Lil Rocky Balboa the Griffon, courtesy CLT