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Dulles International Airport’s indoor pet relief areas

Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD) is the second airport I’ve been in with a pet relief area on the air side of security (Seattle’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the other, but there’s really no comparison between the two spots). We arrived in Dulles on a flight from Seattle, and — as so often happens — the layover I’d counted on between our Seattle flight and our next flight to Paris had evaporated, leaving us too little time to take Chloe out to one of Dulles’ three outdoor locations. Happily, Dulles has two indoor pet relief areas, and although Chloe still recoils from pee pads (you’ll be hearing more about that soon), we figured that she might be desperate enough to set aside her usual objections to them.

We were expecting, you see, an indoor pet relief area like Seattle’s, which is simply a storage room with a concrete floor, a trash can, and a pile of pee pads. It was the first one we encountered, and I was so astonished and grateful to find it that I didn’t have any complaints. A dog, though, would have to be comfortable with pee pads, or with eliminating on concrete, to make use of it.

What we found, however, was completely different. We arrived at a D gate, so we went to the pet relief area across from Gate D1 (this location also works for C gates; if, instead, you arrive at an A or B gate, look for another indoor pet relief area between the concession area and Gate A-31). As you can see, it’s easy to find. Once you get inside (don’t be put off by the key pad — the doorknob turns, at least during the day), you find a small concrete vestibule, with a double bowl of water on a mat, and a gate leading to a fairly large, Astroturf-lined yard (with a faux fire hydrant in the middle).

It doesn’t photograph well, because it’s L-shaped, but there’s sufficient room for your dog to stretch her legs. Bags are provided for poop (and the turf was free of poop, so people seem to be cleaning up after their dogs), and — get this — once your dog has exited the yard, you press a button on the wall and the turf gets rinsed.

The system seems to work well. On our way to Paris, the room was a bit whiffy, but someone had turned the A/C off and it was a stifling 85º in there. Heck, after a few minutes in that kind of heat, I’m whiffy. We visited the same pet relief area when we returned through Dulles two weeks later, and when the room is a reasonable 70º or so, there’s no smell to speak of. Astroturf isn’t grass, but I suspect that more dogs are happy with Astroturf than they are with concrete and pee pads. I call the Dulles indoor pet relief areas a smash success, and hope that similar ones soon start appearing in other airports.

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.


  • Karen Friesecke

    I really like the astroturf idea. I went to a few dog shows in downtown areas that had no grass. I went mental trying to get Jersey to pee on the concrete and would only “go” when it was really urgent. (Once she held out for more than 6 hours!!!) I think that since astroturf looks more like grass, more dogs will like it and use it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Thanks for the comments, Karen and Anil! I’m with you, Karen — Chloe will eventually use the bathroom on concrete, but she figured out the Astroturf right away.

  • Hello, Wayne — Thanks so much for linking to this post. You’re right, this kind of information is crucially important for travelers with service dogs.

  • Sonja

    Oh wow … Montecristo uses the pup head indoor potty – so he’d be right at home with this! awesome every single airport should have one!

  • Todd

    I noticed the door says “SERVICE ANIMAL” relief area. They wouldn’t ask Fido to leave just because he isn’t a service animal, would they?

  • Donna

    We used the indoor pet relief area at Dulles (across from A-31) and found it to be disgusting. It smelled and the AstroTurf was smeared with poo. We couldn’t let our dog use it! It felt like a health hazard to both dogs and humans! Maybe we caught it on a heavy use day,!but don’t let the above positive remarks fool you. It was nasty.

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