Sacramento International Airport (SMF) has a brand new customer service amenity that comes with a wagging tail and a wet nose. Certified pet therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers are making twice-weekly visits to the airport terminals to make the travel experience even more enjoyable.
The new program, named the Boarding Area Relaxation Corps (B.A.R.C.) is a partnership between the airport and Sacramento nonprofit, Lend a Heart, Lend a Hand. The agency provides dogs whose temperament makes them suitable for the noisy, crowded environments of an airport terminal.
The B.A.R.C. program is aimed at reducing stress and adding to the enjoyment of passengers. Visitors will recognize a B.A.R.C. handler by their navy blue vest and their canine will also wear a navy blue vest that says, “PET ME.”
Currently, there are similar programs in an estimated 30 U.S. airports.
“We are continually looking for ways to improve the customer service experience here and pet visitation programs have been very successful at other airports,” said Director of Airports John Wheat.
Lend a Heart ensures that dogs have undergone obedience training, are spayed or neutered, and are up-to-date on vaccinations. They evaluate the handlers and their dogs before certifying them as animal-assisted therapy animals. Dogs are required to be cleaned and groomed prior to visiting.
Handlers are scheduled to visit the terminals twice a week for two hours a visit. If the program is successful, additional shifts may be added.
Dog owners who would like to become part of B.A.R.C. at Sacramento International Airport should email Lend a Heart, Lend a Hand.