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Airport’s furry ambassadors make travel a little less stressful

Travelers at the Louisville airport are welcomed to approach the airport’s new pet therapy animals for some free cuddle time.

If you’ve traveled by air recently, you know that crowded terminals, security checks and flight delays can combine to create a less-than-ideal experience. 

But the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport has a new addition to try to make traveling a little less stressful for passengers there.

Through the SDF WAGS program, certified pet therapy animals and their handlers are now making visits to the airport terminal two to three times a week.

The therapy animals and their handlers are part of Wonderful Animals Giving Support (WAGS) Pet Therapy of Kentucky Inc. The volunteer organization has provided animal-assisted therapy to the Greater Louisville area since 1999. The SDF WAGS Program marks the first time a pet therapy program has been introduced at the Louisville airport.

“As our goal to be the best airport in the country, it’s important that we not only have the best facilities, but offer an exceptional experience to our travelers and visitors,” said Dan Mann, executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. “Traveling can be stressful and is not always for positive reasons. We believe having therapy animals in the terminal not only elevates our airport, but helps ease the stress, calm the anxious and it hopefully can add a smile to someone’s day.”

Therapy animals and their handlers wear attire with a logo that clearly identifies them as part of the SDF WAGS Program. They roam the airport, including locations that are both pre- and post-security checkpoint, at various times on Monday through Friday. Passengers and other airport guests are free to approach them for quality cuddle time.

All therapy animals and their handlers have undergone extensive training through WAGS Pet Therapy of Kentucky, Inc. Each pet therapy team also completes a stringent evaluation for possible scenarios they may encounter in an airport setting.

“One of the reasons we are so happy to be working at the airport is because we recognize that not all people who come to the airport are there for pleasant reasons. Many people are coming because of stressful situations such as traveling to a funeral, military deployment, medical treatment, job interviews, children visiting parents who live out of town and many other scenarios,” said Linda Laun, co-founder of WAGS Pet Therapy of Kentucky Inc. “WAGS volunteers and their pets are committed to bringing a little joy and respite from that stress. The special bond between people and pets, and the intuitiveness of our animals, allows us to reach out and bring a little comfort. The visits at the airport give us the opportunity to interact with a population that is unique in both its diversity and number.”