It’s every pet owner’s nightmare: you’re traveling with your precious pooch, and once you’re at the airport, your pup starts doing that unmistakeable wiggle that says, “I have to go potty right now!” Luckily, many airports are coming up with a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve getting out the bleach and paper towels: airport animal relief areas!
Learn all about these pet-friendly potty spots (try saying that quickly), including where to find them and who can use them.
Calling all Pet Owners: What are Airport Pet Relief Areas?
Airport pet relief areas are special areas within airports where pets, service animals, and emotional support animals can have a toilet break before they board their flights. After all, no one wants their pet to have an accident during the flight!
Are There Animal Relief Areas Past Security?
Some airports, like Phoenix Arizona: Sky Harbor and JFK, do have animal relief areas after security. However, not all of them do, and some have areas that are only for service animals or ESAs. For this reason, it’s important to take your pet to go potty before you go through security, just in case you don’t get another chance.
It’s also a good idea to check exactly where the animal relief areas are in your departure and destination airports before you set off.
The Benefits of Having an ESA Letter When Flying with Your Emotional Support Animal
If you’re flying with an emotional support animal, many airlines now require you to submit documentation in advance to prove your need for an ESA. The only official proof you can have is an ESA letter issued by a licensed mental health professional. Don’t be fooled by websites that offer to certify your ESA or add it to a register—these are not accepted by any airlines and are little more than a scam.
A valid ESA letter will come from a licensed mental health professional who is treating you for a diagnosed mental health condition and will say as much. It will also state that your ESA is an important part of your ongoing treatment and give details of your issuer’s license.
If you think you could benefit from an ESA, why not try CertaPet’s free online 5-minute pre-screening questionnaire, which can help you tell if you qualify. If you do qualify, CertaPet can connect you with a licensed mental health professional, and after a consultation, you could get your ESA letter in as little as two business days.
Laying Down the Law: The Two Crucial Laws that Protect ESAs
Emotional support animals and their owners are protected by two federal laws, helping them to go more places together. The first of these, the Fair Housing Act, protects people with disabilities against discrimination in rented accommodation. Part of the Act states that people with assistance animals (both service dogs and ESAs) can keep them with them in their home, even if pets are otherwise forbidden.
The second law is called the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), and this protects people with disabilities while traveling on commercial airlines. This includes allowing them to bring assistance animals like service dogs and ESAs into the cabin with them without paying pet fees and even if pets are not allowed.
If Fido or Fifi Don’t Behave, They Won’t Be Getting on a Plane!
There are some important exceptions to these rules regarding emotional support animals, however. If an ESA is unable to behave properly in public, such as jumping or lunging at people, barking, growling, running around, or generally being a nuisance, they can be refused to board. It is always the responsibility of the ESA’s owner to make sure that their animal behaves. In addition to bad behavior, an ESA that is unclean or gives off a foul odor can be refused too.
Take them Potty Before!
One of the most common complaints passengers have about ESAs on planes is when the animals have accidents on board… especially when their owners don’t clean it up. Avoid messy mistakes by always ensuring that you visit the airport animal relief area before boarding, and allowing your ESA plenty of time to do its business.
Airport Relief Centers for Pets/ESAs: Where to Look for Dog Potty Area
If you’re traveling with an animal, whether it’s a pet, a service dog, or an emotional support animal, you’ll want to know where the animal relief areas are before you need them. We’ve compiled a handy list of where to find the pet relief areas in some of the country’s most popular airports.
Phoenix Arizona: Sky Harbor Airport!
Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix, Arizona has a whopping 9 pet relief areas! Outdoor relief areas (pre-security)
- The Pet Patch, which is located slightly east of Terminal 2
- The Paw Pad, found just outside of the western end of Terminal 3. It is part of the West Plaza, an outdoor area with native Arizona plants.
- The Bone Yard, located to the west of Terminal 4 on Level 1, just as you get out of baggage claim
Animal relief areas near PHX Sky Train stations (pre-security)
- East Economy Park & Bark, found near the East Economy parking garages.
- Park ‘n Play, found on the northwestern corner of the 44th Street PHX Sky Train Station.
Post-security relief areas:
- Terminal 2: on the lower level, close to the family restroom
- Terminal 3: in the main concourse
- Terminal 4: on the D1-D8 gates concourse, close to the family restroom. Also on the B1-B14 gates concourse, close to the Gate B2 restrooms.
JFK Terminal Map Airport
There are at least 10 animal relief areas around JFK, including some that are after security.
- Terminals 1 and 2 each have an outdoor pre-security pet relief area at the arrivals area.
- Terminal 2 also has a post-security relief area, located next to the Delta Sky Club.
- Terminal 4 has an extra fancy indoor pet bathroom that is 70 square feet and comes with synthetic turf, a red fire hydrant, and a hose to wash it all down. It’s found between Gates 30 and 32. This terminal also has a pre-security relief area outside arrivals.
- Terminal 5 has a pre-security pet bathroom beside baggage carousel 6, and a large open-air post-security patio area opposite Gate 28 that is open to all customers with a special pet-relief corner. If you’re traveling with a service animal, JetBlue will provide assistance to and from the relief areas in Terminal 5.
- Terminal 7 has a pre-security pet area outside arrivals, and a post-security area between Gates 9 and 10.
- Terminal 9 has a large pre-security relief area outside departures, which includes 1,000 square feet of grass.
New Jersey’s Newark Airport has a pet relief area outside arrivals at each terminal, but there are none after security.
Atlanta Aiport: Hartsfield-Jackson International
Hartfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta has an outdoor fenced dog park that is 1,000 square feet, located outside Domestic Terminal South. There is a smaller relief area outside of arrivals at the International Terminal. Both these are pre-security. There are post-security indoor pet relief areas on every concourse near Gates T7, A10, B33, C19, E14, F7, and D-Midpoint.
All pets (other than assistance animals) at Orlando International Airport must remain in their carriers at all times, and as such, the airport’s two relief areas are for assistance animals only. They are found on the A side to the east of the building, and on the B side to the west of the building.
Denver Aiport Pet Relief Area
Denver International has an outdoor, pre-security, fenced pet area on Level 2, beside the Garage West, outside Jeppesen Terminal. There are post-security doggy bathrooms at the center of the A, B and C Gate concourses.
There are five animal relief areas at Washington Dulles International:
- Three are found outside the main terminal, pre-security, one next to baggage claim 1, and two at opposite ends of the Main Terminal.
- Two are located inside the midfield concourses post-security: next to Gate A32, beside the Virgin Atlantic Club, and opposite Gate D1.
There are five pet relief areas at LaGuardia Airport. Each terminal has a pet relief area outside the arrivals area, pre-security, and there are is post-security pet relief room accessible from Terminal C via an entrance near Gate C12, and from Terminal D near Gate D11.
Dallas/Fort Worth International has a number of animal bathroom areas, including four after security. The pre-security bathrooms are found outside the entry doors on the lower level:
- Terminal A: door A8,
- Terminal C: doors C2 and C39;
- Terminal D: doors D15 and D29;
- Terminal E: doors E2 and E38.
The post-security areas are found as follows:
- Terminal A: beside Gate A29
- Terminal B: beside Gate B5
- Terminal D: beside Gate D18
- Terminal E: beside Gate E31
Fort Lauderdale Airport
There are four outdoor pre-security pet relief areas at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International, which are located at each terminal outside the baggage claim on the lower level. There is an indoor relief area in Terminal 1, but this is for assistance animals only.
Philadelphia Aiport is widely regarded as very pet-friendly, thanks to its numerous pet relief areas or “Pet Ports”. There is at least one Pet Port past security in each terminal, though these are limited to assistance animals only. The locations are as follows:
- Terminal A-West: near Gate A-16
- Terminal A-East: near the bus stop by Gate A-1
- Terminal B: near the B side of the A-B walkway
- Terminal C: near the C side of the C-D walkway
- Terminal D: near the D side of the C/D walkway and between Gates D-3 and D-5
- Terminal E: beside Gate E-1
- Terminal F: just after the security checkpoint
Regular pets must use one of the outside pet areas, which are found before security in both arrivals and departures areas.
San Diego Aiport
There are three relief areas at San Diego International:
- Outside, in the area between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
- At the west end of the Commuter Terminal, also outside.
- Post-security: in Terminal 2 West, between Gates 46 and 47
There are seven designated areas for pets to go to the bathroom at Miami Aiport:
- West of the North/Dolphin parking garage, opposite door 5 of baggage claim/arrivals (unfenced)
- West of the South Short Term Parking lot and Central Terminal, opposite door 15 of baggage claim/arrivals (fenced)
- South of the South/Flamingo parking garage, opposite door 28 of baggage claim/arrivals (fenced)
Indoors, after security:
- North Terminal: close to Gate D34
- Concourse F: close to Gate F7
- Concourse G: close to Gate G5
- Concourse J: close to Gate J3
San Francisco Airport: SFO Terminal Map
SFO has a number of outdoor relief areas at the curbside (arrivals/baggage reclaim) level, some of which are landscaped and fenced, and all of which are pre-security. Look out for paw prints painted on the ground to mark the pet areas, or fin them in the following locations:
- Terminal 1: Courtyard 1,
- Terminal 2: Courtyard 3,
- Terminal 3: Courtyard 4.
Houston Airport: George Bush Intercontinental
Every terminal at George Bush Intercontinental Airport has at least one animal relief area, though some are just indoors while others are outdoors only. Outside, pre-security:
- Terminal A: to the western side of the Hotel Shuttles and Parking Shuttles pick-up
- Terminal B, south of the Limousines pick-up
- Terminal D: both southwest and southeast of the main terminal entrance
- Terminal E, northwest and northeast of the terminal (this area is shared with Terminal D).
Inside, after security:
- Terminal C: opposite Gate C2
- Terminal D: opposite Gate D6.
4 Top Tips to Know Before Flying with an Emotional Support Animal
- Even if you are required to submit your documentation in advance, it’s always a good idea to bring a hard copy with you when you travel.
- Schedule an appointment with your ESA’s veterinarian before you travel for a general check-up, to get copies of its vaccination certificates, and to ask about travel sickness medication, if needed.
- It’s up to you to make sure your ESA behaves properly; otherwise, it might not be allowed to fly. Socializing, training, and acclimatization are key!
- If you’re nervous about your ESA going to the bathroom in the airport or getting sick on the plane, avoid feeding it 4 to 6 hours before you depart. This isn’t a good idea for very long flights, however.
Get Connected to an LMHP Today to Get Your ESA Letter
If you’re planning to travel with an emotional support animal, knowing where the bathrooms are is very important—as is having a valid ESA letter. CertaPet has a 5-minute, free pre-screening process that can help you to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal. If you do, we can connect you with a licensed mental health professional in your area, and you could have your ESA letter in a matter of days!