Therapy Dogs Scheme Arrives At Orlando International Airport

Orlando International Airport has announced a new programme that will see dogs act as therapists towards passengers drained from the rigours of travel. The MCO Paw Pilots scheme will involve certified therapy dogs being located in the main terminal of the airport.

Therapy Dogs Scheme Arrives At Orlando International Airport
Orlando International Airport is trialling a new Paw Pilots programme. Photo: University of the Fraser Valley via Flickr.

Commenting on the Paw Pilots programme, Brian Engle, director of customer experience for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, suggested that this innovative approach could make a real difference to passengers in Orlando. Speaking to Orlando Attractions he said,

“We understand that travel can be stressful and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) wants to try something new to enhance the customer experience. Our Paw Pilots will offer the right balance of comfort and cuddles with our team of vetted therapy dogs and their handlers.”

The dogs involved in the Paw Pilots program will be accompanied by handlers at all times and will appear at the airport in two-hour increments. It is planned for the dogs to be located at the landslide of the airport, meaning that they won’t be available for passengers or guests at the gates.

Therapy Dogs Scheme Arrives At Orlando International Airport
Orlando International joins airports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale in using therapy dogs. Photo: elisfkc via Flickr.

Certified therapists

Each dog that is involved in the scheme has been certified as a therapy dog for at least two years. All animals involved must also pass both an in-person screening and an in-terminal test before being inaugurated into the pilot scheme.

Adele Simons, one of the first team of handlers involved with the animals, told Fox35 in Orlando that therapy dogs can make a big difference to the experience of nervous passengers.

“A lot of people are very scared, maybe never been on a plane before. and they see a dog — especially a little fluffy dog — they just want to cuddle, and they forget about all their stress and anxiety.”

Orlando International Airport isn’t the first airport to pilot such a scheme by any means. Both Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have already put similar programmes in place. In total, there were 58 airports worldwide that used the services of therapy dogs during 2018.

Miami International Airport boasts five volunteer canines, while Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport introduced its AmbassaDogs therapy dog program in 2013.

The following breeds and animals will be involved in the trial programme in Orlando:

  • Annabel, Golden Retriever
  • Annie, Golden Retriever
  • Daisy-Mai, Pomeranian
  • Essie, rescue, believed to be a Corgi-Border Collie mix
  • Farley, Bearded and Border Collie mix
  • Fifi, Miniature Schnauzer
  • Jora, Golden and Labrador Retriever mix
  • Tori, German Shepherd
  • Woody, Basset Hound
Therapy Dogs Scheme Arrives At Orlando International Airport
An increasing number of airlines are now receptive to dogs travelling with passengers. Photo: Akaporn Bhothisuwan via Flickr.

Trial stage

Paw Pilots is currently in a trial stage and will be evaluated over the next year in order to determine whether or not it should be rolled out to the airport on a permanent basis.

Dogs are very important to many airline passengers, so we put together a guide to help you ensure that your dogs are safe when flying in the hold. And you can see a list of the airlines that allow dogs here.

What do you think of the Paw Pilots programme? Let us know in the comments.