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Pet relief area at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) — International Terminal or Terminal 1

On the bright side, SFO is an airport that (a) has pet relief areas, and (b) is willing to reveal their locations. They’re on the SFO airport map (look at the interactive map and click on “services” and “Animal Relief Areas”), and upon inquiry you’ll get written directions too. Unfortunately, SFO is a complicated place, so the map isn’t very helpful, and the written directions — well, good effort, but “one is located between Terminal 1 and the International Terminal (Courtyard 1)” doesn’t cut the mustard when you’re in a hurry. Here are more details.

We were traveling on Virgin America, so we landed at SFO’s International Terminal. [6/27/11 Virgin America now flies into SFO’s T2, so Virgin America passengers and dogs should look instead for the pet relief area next to T2.] Usually, pet relief areas are outside baggage claim, but not at the International Terminal. Go back up to the departures level and follow the signs saying “Walkway to Domestic Terminals.” Once you’re in the Domestic area, take the first escalator back down to the arrivals level and look for signs to the Animal Relief Area. Once you’re outside the doors, you’ll see paw prints painted on the ground, leading to the pet relief areas. We never saw a sign for Courtyard 1, so that locator won’t be a help.

If, instead, you arrive at domestic Terminals 1, walk down to the baggage claim area and turn left. Walk to the end of the terminal building and look for the “Animal Relief Area” signs. When you exit the building, look for the paw print path.

Here’s what you’ll find — a fairly large graveled area, fully fenced and equipped with poop bags, trash cans and a water source. It’s not the best I’ve seen, but it was clean and not too cramped — I’ve seen far, far worse (hello, Seattle? Denver? Las Vegas?).

SFO pet relief area (Terminal 1)

Travel tip: If you’re renting a car at SFO, I suggest skipping the airport pet relief areas and taking the airport train straight to the car rental building. You’ll arrive on Level 4; go down to Level 1 and exit the building to find a small but serviceable planting strip. It will save you a lot of time, but be sure you’re equipped with a poop bag.

This post is part of an ongoing series of reviews of airport pet relief areas we’ve visited. To see others, visit Dog Jaunt’s handy guide to airport pet relief areas.


  • Michelle

    What about departing from SFO with your dog? Once you get through security are there any pet relief areas we can take our dog to before we get onto a flight?

  • Alas, Michelle, not yet. SFO has not yet joined the (very) small but growing list of airports that have pet relief areas on the air side of security. I’d arrive a little early and take your pup to the land side pet relief area before you check in (or between checking in and going through security, if you want to get rid of your bags first), or, if your pup reacts well to pee pads, you could choose a quiet moment and a restroom off the beaten path, and take him into a stall with you. It’s not actually allowed, so be hasty, choose a moment when there’s not a big demand, and be extremely clean and tidy.

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