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Posted on Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 6 a.m.

'Pets Unstressing Passengers' program aims to make the experience of air travel more pleasant

By Lorrie Shaw

Traveling is one of my great joys, and hopping on a plane to visit a destination far from home is an exciting prospect. However, it can be stressful at times, I grant you that.

Trying to get through security with as little confusion as possible, the possibility of missing a connecting flight and dealing with crowds can put people on edge.

For some people, the act of actually getting on a plane can pose some serious anguish.

And let's face it, traveling by plane isn't just a way to get to a fun destination: sometimes we need to go someplace for not-so-pleasant reasons, and that can exacerbate any challenges that people feel when flying.

One of the busiest airports in the world, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), is aiming to make the experience at the facility less-stressful with a unique program that was launched just this month.

The Pets Unstressing Passengers program, or PUP, features 30 therapy dogs of different breeds and their experienced handlers who traipse around the boarding areas seven days a week, offering comfort to passengers, way finding and generally helping those travelers in need.

LAX has partnered with Therapy Dogs Inc. to bring the program to fruition.

Passengers can approach the dogs to pet and hug them — something that can be quite calming when faced with a somewhat daunting situation and in an familiar place. The dogs wear brightly-colored vests that read, "pet me!"

"These pups, I think, are going to be amazingly effective at relieving stress and anxiety, and exceptionally helpful in calming nerves and creating a more friendly atmosphere," says Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports .

The program has been met with much delight and praise from the public.

Brian Valenti, who is one of the volunteers, notes that the dogs have a positive impact on those working within the airport, too.

"We've been having a great time so far, whether it's passengers... but also the security guards and TSA — it de-stresses them as well."

But not to worry if you're not a fan of dogs: PUP participants promise to interact only with those who are interested.

Watch the video created by LAX for more on the program.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for and is owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.


Brenda Song

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

What about people like me who get stressed with dogs? Do we have to put up with this just because it's cute to some? What about MY stress levels? This seems like good intentions, unfortunately bot everyone is happy about it.

Lorrie Shaw

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Brenda, As I noted in my piece, the teams only interact with those that show interest. Lorrie

J. Sorensen

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 8:26 a.m.

I want a hug now!

Lorrie Shaw

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Me too, J. Sorensen!

Kristi Valentini, BluePearl Veterinary Partners

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

One in 10 people have a some level of flying anxiety. Myself included. I can totally see how having the dogs there can help a fear ridden traveler think of something outside of him/her self. That alone will help reduce anxiety and fear. Not to mention that you just can help smiling back at a smiling dog. :)

Lorrie Shaw

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.

I agree. I see a dog, and I melt. Thanks for your moment, Kristi!

Mary Bilyeu

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 11:08 a.m.

I loathe flying - just the thought of it is stressful! To be able to spend some time with a PUP dog??? That makes me smile, as I read it. If I could borrow one, or a lap cat, for the trip would make it even better!

Lorrie Shaw

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

I know, right, Mary? And, imagine how much easier the jobs of airline staff are when passengers are less stressed. It's a win/win.