Many people aren't aware that U.S. airports are required to provide "pet
relief areas" to accommodate service animals. These areas are also
available to traveling pets. Since the law requiring these areas does
not specify how these areas are to be equipped, where they are to be
located, or how many are available, they can vary widely.
Some airports are really doing this up right with official bathrooms that offer faux grassy areas with fake fire hydrants for your dog's potty pleasure. These rooms are wheel-chair accessible for the owners as well. Poop bags are provided instead of toilet paper for quick clean up, as well as a sink for humans to wash their paws, er, hands.
JFK Airport in New York just opened their new pet relief area earlier this month. It lies in Terminal 4 and is design for appropriate comfort and easy cleaning. Of course there is just the one. I hope that they are planning to add more as time goes on. As with humans, there isn't always time to go running all over to find a bathroom when nature calls.
Late last year Chicago's O'Hare Airport opened a similar version. The faux grass in this bathroom even has sprinklers that pop up to wash away waste. San Diego International Airport, Washington Dulles, Pittsburgh, and other airports are also making the effort with indoor pet relief stations.
On the flip side are the pet relief areas offered by airports are like Denver International Airport. It is reportedly difficult to find and just an unfriendly and dimly-lit enclosure of gravel outdoors and tucked away in a dim corner under a stairway. At least dog poop bags and a trash can are provided, but you have to hoof it back inside to find a place to wash your hands. For such a modern airport this one amenity seems terribly lacking.
In between these two options lie ones like that at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. There are no official pet relief areas, but there are grassy areas inside the terminal that people use to let their pets take a potty break. Since they aren't official there are no poop bags provided, so it is best to carry your own.
One of the ideas behind the placement of these areas is to help prevent travelers from having to leave the terminal, go outside, and then have to go through the lengthy security lines a second time. And, of course, to avoid passengers the embarrassment of having to clean up messes on the floor.
I hope that the trend toward better bathroom facilities for pets in airports continues. After all, pets are people too.
Images via The Dodo