By Patrick Donachie
Service animals that travel through John F. Kennedy International Airport can now breathe a sigh of relief should they need to relieve themselves.
The airport opened its first post-security animal relief area April 27 in response to a new regulation requiring large airports to have them.
“We recognize the growing presence of animals in our terminal, and the significant increase in passengers traveling with pets,” Gert-Jan de Graaff, the president and chief executive officer of JFKIAT, the management company that operates the terminal, said about the new facility.
The area, located inside the airport’s Terminal 4, spans 70 square feet and includes space for pets to relieve themselves as well as a facsimile of a fire hydrant for dogs who are accustomed to using them to do their business.
The new space will make it so that travelers will not need to bring their animals outside the terminal to relieve themselves and will save animal owners an extra trip through security. The space was created in collaboration with the Guide Dog Foundation, a service-animal training school in Smithtown, N.Y.
“By working collaboratively, we are ensuring that people who travel with assistance dogs have a more enjoyable and less stressful travel experience,” Wells Jones, the chief executive officer of the Guide Dog Foundation, said.
The new facility was built after a new regulation from the U.S. Department of Transportation issued in August 2015 mandated that any air terminal that services more than 10,000 passengers per day must have a pet relief area post-security. The affected airports must comply with the mandate by August 4 of this year.
William Krol, communications manager for the Guide Dog Foundation, said the organization had offered its guidance to other area airports to help them build spaces that will satisfy the federal requirements.
“We worked with the airport operators in terms of finding locations that would be conducive to adding a pet relief area,” he said, noting that the pet relief area at Terminal 4 was located between two bathrooms with water and ventilation already available. Fewer structural alterations, he said, made it easier for airports to comply with the regulation.
“If you’re traveling with a guide or service dog and you have a connecting flight, you can do this and not go through security again,” he said. “It’s great for assistance owners as well as pet owners.”
The regulation required that airports consult with “animal service organizations” like Guide Dog when designing their animal relief areas. According to the site Pet Friendly Travel, JFK joins 14 other airports throughout the country that have pet relief areas inside the terminal after the security check station.
including Washington Dulles International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth and Memphis International.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona