Best Practices for Airport Pet Relief Areas

At minimum, airports should have pet relief areas within terminals for traveling pets and service animals. We recommend more locations in both concourses and terminals pre- and post-security to better accommodate travelers and avoid accidents.

Here’s what’s needed for a successful pet relief area.

Basic Amenities and Resources

Be sure your relief area includes:

  • Clear communication that the relief area is for both pets and service animals.
  • Easy access to the relief area and its amenities, including for pet parents using assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers or canes.
  • Pet-friendly turf, grass or another surface that’s gentle on paws in all types of weather.
  • Non-slip, easily cleaned surface around the relief area.
  • A waste bag dispenser with a trash receptacle attached or nearby, both of which are regularly serviced.
  • Adequate lighting for safe use by people and pets.
  • Effective drainage and a spray or sprinkler system that ensures the pet relief area is properly cleaned and helps to minimizes odors.
  • Clear rules that remind pet owners of their responsibilities when using the space.
  • Sanitizing or hand-washing options for pet parent hygiene. Also consider a leash hook or carrier space to safely free up pet parents’ hands for hand washing.
  • A readily visible resource number or QR code for questions or issues.
  • Documented cleaning and maintenance standard operating procedures and a regular schedule for area maintenance, such as spraying down the surface, removing trash and refilling waste bags.
  • Friendly signage that encourages responsible practices like keeping dogs on leash and/or cleaning up after them.
  • If indoors, ensure adequate ventilation to maximize air flow and minimize odors.
  • If outdoors, ensure adequate separation from vehicular traffic areas, at minimum allowing a few feet between the relief area and a parking lot or street.
A curbside pet relief area at Nashville International Airport (BNA), which includes free waste bags to support travelers in need.

Next-Level Offerings

If you have the space and budget, these features will make your relief area even more welcoming:

  • A pet-friendly water fountain with a refillable water bottle option for humans supports healthy hydration for all.
  • A pheromone-based prop, such as a scented doggy fire hydrant, can encourage dogs to complete their business in the area.
  • Consider a vacant/occupied mechanism on indoor relief area doors to accommodate a single pet at a time – some pets may be more comfortable (and quicker) if alone.
  • If outdoors, include an awning or shade that protects users from heat and inclement weather to make it an even better experience.
  • If you have a larger space, include a play area as well, for example with agility equipment and a bench for waiting pet parents.
  • If your relief area is off-leash, make sure it is fully fenced in and includes double-containment gates so pet parents can enter safely before removing their dog’s leash.
A drinking fountain at BNA, offering hydration for people and pets, and signage that educates about the importance of hydration for dogs.

Want more tips? Check out the full Pet-Friendly Airport Toolkit for how-to’s and best practices to help plan pet-friendly policies, amenities and programming for airports.

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