Pet Relief Areas at Washington Dulles International Airport
This week we're spotlighting Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Like the other airports we've featured, this facility has adapted to accommodate service animals and traveling pets by offering a few different pet relief areas located throughout the airport—including two indoor locations with unusually efficient features.
We interviewed Courtney Mickalonis, a representative from IAD, to find out more about the amenities found here.
How many designated pet areas can be found at this airport, and what amenities are offered?
We have five pet relief areas at Dulles International Airport. These areas are covered with a special “K9 grass” that is comfortable for the animals, sanitary and easy to clean and maintain. Our indoor locations are additionally equipped with a special flushing system to help keep the areas clean. We provide waste receptacles and bags at all locations and ask owners to dispose of solid waste.
What is the history of this pet friendly addition?
A recent federal regulation required all airports to designate animal relief areas for service animals that accompany passengers. We opened the outdoor areas on either side of the Main Terminal last summer for both service animals and passengers traveling with pets.
These areas complied with the federal regulation, however Washington Dulles is a large airport and we realized it would be more convenient for our passengers to also have pet relief areas in the concourse areas.
The concourse locations are especially helpful for passengers with connecting flights who may not have a lot of time between flights. They can quickly take their animal for a break without having to travel to the Main Terminal and clear security again.
Our challenge was to create an indoor space that is comfortable for the animals and also easy to keep clean. Our airport engineers researched numerous materials and drainage systems in order to design these interior spaces unique to our airport. They created a special irrigation system built into the room that rinses the floor area with the push of a button and installed washable “K9 grass” that is specially treated to prevent disease transmission and odors.
What are the specific locations of these pet relief areas?
The location serving the A and B Gates is located between the concession area and Gate A-31. The location serving the C and D Gates is located across from Gate D-1. Our three outdoor locations are located pre-security.
How many dogs can use the areas at once? Have there been any crowding issues?
We have not experienced crowding issues at our pet relief areas. We have seen up to three dogs in the area at the same time. We rely on the dog owner to know how their dog reacts to other dogs.
We have seen some owners wait until the space is clear of all dogs before entering with their dog. We do ask owners to clean up after their animals and we provide bags and receptacles for solid waste. Our indoor locations additionally feature a special button on the wall that owners can push to activate a specially designed irrigation system that rinses the room.
Our passengers have been cooperative about cleaning up after their animals and “flushing” the indoor locations before they leave.
Do you have staff members specifically assigned to supervise the pet area?
No, but we do have our cleaning contractors visit the spaces a few times each day to ensure the areas are clean.
How many pets use these facilities each year?
Our pet areas are always open for the traveling public to use. We don’t require passengers to check-in at these areas so we have no way of tracking how many pets have used them. We have received numerous positive comments from passengers since the pet relief areas opened, but we don’t have statistics.
What advice do you have for travelers with pets?
Contact your airline before you book your flight to determine their policy for traveling with pets. Many airlines post their pet policies on their websites or you can call the airline’s customer service number.
Are there any future improvements or expansions planned?
We are currently constructing a sixth animal relief area in the International Federal Inspection Area for transferring international passengers. This will be an outside facility that passengers will be able to access without needing to be escorted by airport personnel. This new area will open next year.
Where does the funding come from for projects like this?
The funding comes from the airport’s budget.
What is your favorite part about the pet area at your airport? Do you have any fun stories to share?
My favorite part is hearing from our passengers. Indoor pet relief areas are a fairly new concept for airports and many passengers are surprised to learn we have a special place for their pets. Our airport engineers worked hard to design these spaces and we are happy to provide this customer service for our passengers traveling with pets.
We want to help make their trip (and their pet’s trip!) through our airport more pleasant and convenient.
Courtney Mickalonis is an Assistant Media Relations Manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates and manages Dulles International and Reagan National Airports in Washington, D.C. Thanks for talking with us, Courtney!
Check back for more information about pet friendly airports, and contact PetRelocation if you're interested in hiring assistance with shipping your pet via cargo.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November 2010 and has been updated with new information.