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“Air”-side pet relief areas in the works for all larger U.S. airports

A little note at the end of a Harriet Baskas article electrified me. “The list,” she wrote, referring to pet relief areas on the air (or “sterile”) side of security, “should get much longer soon: There’s a U.S. Department of Transportation ruling mandating that all air terminals that serve more than 10,000 daily passengers have a post-security pet relief area by August 2016.” That’s thrilling news, because — as I’ve said here any number of times — pet relief areas on the land side of security are useful for folks ending their travels at that airport, but create serious timing issues for folks who are connecting to another flight. Having pet relief areas on the air side of security is a huge, well, relief.

I dug a bit deeper, and here’s what I’ve learned. Last August, the Department of Transportation issued a “Final Rule” amending its rules implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Among its provisions, per the Federal Register (the language I quote is on page 46510, but the whole entry is worth a read), is a requirement that “airports not only have at least one relief area per terminal but also that this service animal relief area, with limited exceptions, be located in the sterile area of each airport terminal to ensure that individuals with service animals are able to access service animal relief areas when traveling, particularly during layovers” (emphasis added). The rule applies to airports “located in the United States with 10,000 or more annual enplanements that receive Federal financial assistance” (so not all U.S. airports, but really, all of the ones you and I are likely to encounter — and the ones it doesn’t apply to are likely so small that you could easily pop out and back in with your pup).

And the deadline for this plan? Indeed, it’s officially August 2016: “Finally, the Department is providing U.S. airports one year to comply with the requirement to establish at least one service animal relief areas per airport terminal.” That’s right around the corner — I suspect that many airports will heave a Porch Potty or two into a former storage room and call it good, but we can hope that at least some of them take a page from the book of JFK’s Terminal 5, and provide an air side pet relief area that is large, equipped with a water source and a bench, and is positively pleasant to be in.