During the celebration, nearly 40 therapy dogs from the programme, and their handlers, walked the grass carpet, took photos and were interviewed about their participation in PUPs
Los Angeles World Airports celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPs) Program at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in the courtyard of the Theme Building recently. During the celebration, nearly 40 therapy dogs from the programme, and their handlers, walked the grass carpet, took photos and were interviewed about their participation in PUPs.
“PUPs is an extraordinary programme that makes LAX stand out among other international and domestic airports,” said Val Velasco, Commission vice president, Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners. “It adds a friendly touch to the airport and lets our guests know that we care about their comfort levels and well-being when they walk through the terminals.”
In 2013, the PUPs Program began with 20 therapy dogs. There are now close to 90 dogs in the programme. The therapy dogs and volunteers roam the departures levels in the gate areas of each terminal and visit guests who are waiting on flights. The teams also provide information to guests and answer questions they may have. On average, each team of PUPs volunteers can interact with between 3500 and 7000 guests at LAX each year. Last year alone, the PUPs volunteers logged more than 4,000 hours of service at the airport. Over the last five years, the LAX PUPs team has helped 56 airports nationwide start similar programmes.
“For the last five years, the therapy dogs and their handlers have brought a tremendous amount of joy and relief to travellers during what is a stressful time for many,” said Keith Wilschetz, deputy executive director of operations and emergency management, LAWA, who also served as the Master of Ceremonies at the event. “At LAX, we are thrilled that the PUPs Program continues to grow and thrive, and we look forward to many years to come.”
During the celebration, PUPs Program director Heidi Huebner also introduced the pets and their handlers to the attendees and media present. Huebner has led the programme since its inception and has seen how many lives the volunteers and their pets have affected in a positive manner. “We don’t ever know why someone is travelling,” said Huebner. “It could be for a happy reason or for sad reasons, but to be there to comfort them with the therapy dogs is life-changing.”
The Pets Unstressing Passengers is part of a frontline team of volunteers that includes 225 Volunteer Information Professionals, the newly formed LAXceeders Student Volunteer Program and 150 Guest Experience members.