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September 06, 2021

PHL brings therapy dogs to the airport to ease and entertain travelers

Dogs like Cosmo and Zeke walk the terminals for passengers to pet during their travel day

Travel Dogs
Wagging Tails Brigade Philadelphia International Airport/Courtesy

The Wagging Tails Brigade offers dogs that passengers can pet throughout their travel day.

Meet the Philadelphia International Airports cutest employees: the Wagging Tails Brigade. 

These dogs on duty walk through the airport terminals for guests to pet and play with to create a more calming environment for travelers. 

"Our employees love seeing them too," Douglas said. "Everyone walks away happy and with a smile on their face."

The program started in March 2019 with four teams of dogs and handlers, Leah Douglas, Director of Guest Experience, told PhillyVoice in an email.

The dogs came through a partnership with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a national nonprofit that certifies handlers and their dogs, meaning they all meet specific standards of behavior. 

Now, the program has expanded to include 10 teams, and two more are on the way, Douglas said.

Each dog and handler team spends two hours each week walking the terminals to provide travelers with a memorable and stress-free experience at the airport.

Some service dogs at the airport, like bomb-sniffing dogs with the police, TSA and CBP, are not allowed to be pet on the floor, but these dogs are put in the airport to be pet. Douglas said when passengers realize they can play with these dogs, their faces light up. 

"They ask the handler 'I can pet the dog?' and when the answer is 'yes,' the dog is instantly surrounded by admiring passengers.," Douglas said. "And conversations ensue between the passengers, and/or employees, and the handler. From 'how old is the dog?' 'I miss my dog,' to 'he or she's so cute.'"

Wagging Tails trading cardsPhiladelphia International Airport/Courtesy

Each dog in the Wagging Tails Brigade has a trading card full of fun facts about the dog, including its birthday, breed and favorite treat.

The airport made trading cards for each dog that includes their photo, name, breed and other facts like their birthday and favorite treats.

Douglas said the airport is looking to expand the program even further. Philadelphians and their dogs who are interested in joining the Wagging Tails Brigade can consider volunteering at the airport if their dog is certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

Outside of the Brigade, the airport launched another volunteer program for people to welcome travelers to PHL and answer any questions they may have as they navigate the airport. Douglas said they hope to recruit more than 200 volunteers for the Volunteer Navigators program.

Wagging Tails Brigade officerPhiladelphia International Airport/Courtesy

Each Wagging Tails Brigade team includes a handler and dog. Philadelphians can apply to be a part of the program online.

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