Pet program at Alberta airport aims to lower passengers’ blood pressure

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – Some travellers may feel less stressed than usual as they pass through Fort McMurray International Airport over the next few months.

The airport is bringing in specially trained pet-therapy dogs for passengers to interact with.

The “gentle, friendly” animals will be stationed in the first-floor arrivals hall at selected times in April, May and June, the airport says.

PAWS for People, the non-profit group running the pilot program, says the benefits of pet therapy include lowered blood pressure, lowered anxiety, reduced depression and the release of endorphins that have a calming effect.

The local chapter of the Northern Alberta Pet Therapy Association provides pet visitation services at several Fort McMurray venues.

The airport says it is the second airport in Alberta, and fourth in Canada, to offer pet-therapy services to its passengers. Other Canadian airports with similar programs include Edmonton International Airport, Regina International Airport and Saskatoon International Airport.