Most of the time, animals in airports mean one of three things: people traveling with pets, people traveling with service animals, and security dogs. But there’s a new animal roaming the concourse in more and more airports around the country: The airport animal ambassador, also known as an airport therapy dog. Unlike emotional support animals that help individual passengers with a specific mental health condition, therapy animals stay in the airport and provide a measure of comfort to any airline passengers who may need it. Don’t dismiss

Be it a fear of flying or irritability due to extended travel delays, these animals don’t care about your bad mood. And they’re not responsible for mechanical issues or reduced legroom on planes. They demand you take a moment, or two, and shower them with love. Their cuteness cannot be resisted, but most importantly, it can be an emotional salve during a trying time. It may feel like a simple trick at first, but it ends up being quite effective.

What Airports have Therapy Dogs?

Most major airports have these ambassadors nowadays, but many of the airports only have the animal available for a few hours a day. Nevertheless, these animals are also becoming more common with each passing year, in no small part, because they haven’t created major problems in airports to date. They can’t make everything all right when it comes to a bad airport experience, but they really do make a positive difference. Here are some of the airports we know have some type of therapy animal program in place:

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Denver International Airport (DEN)

San José International Airport (SJC)

Sacramento International Airport (SAC)

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

San Antonio International Airport (SAT)

Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)

Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR)

The Recent History of Airport Therapy Animals

The existence of airport therapy animal programs can be traced back to San José International Airport (SJC) around 2011. The interfaith chaplain volunteer brought her therapy dog to the airport on the anniversary of 9/11, hoping it would calm people’s anxieties about flying. It was so successful the airport started bring the animals into the airport seven days a week. Many different dogs breed can serve as therapy animals including spaniels, terriers, retrievers, and even rottweilers. Any dog serving at an airport will be certified by Therapy Dogs International (TDI). That said, the animal doesn’t even have to be a dog. Pigs are another popular animal that can serve as an ambassador.

Airport Animal Ambassadors making Names for Themselves

Many of these airports brand their therapy animal programs with clever names. LAX has

LAX has Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP)

DEN has the Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS)

SAC has the Boarding Area Relaxation Corp (BARC)

The best example may not be a dog at all but Lilou, the world’s first airport therapy pig. She has her own website. She’s a member of SFO’s therapy animal program, the Wag Brigade.