Starting July 14, 2017, there will be new ambassadors at Asheville Regional Airport. These volunteers will have four legs, wagging tails and lots of affection to share with passengers and visitors. They may even share a few kisses.
Their names are Grace, Sam, Doc, Sunny, Daisy, Baby, Jelly, Willa and Brody. And these ambassadors are part of a new program called "Paws for Passengers," in which pet therapy dogs and their handlers will meander through the airport terminal during busy times each week. The pet therapy dogs are mild-mannered, friendly and trained companions who enjoy visiting with people of all ages, and their handlers have hearts of service.
"When asked why we started this new program at the airport, I immediately think about our region and how pet-friendly we are," said Lew Bleiweis, A.A.E., Executive Director. "It is a good fit for Asheville Regional Airport to have this program that allows certified pets in the terminal to help bring some cheer, welcome locals and visitors, perhaps calm some nerves and provide a unique passenger experience."
The program currently has eleven volunteer handlers and nine pet therapy dogs, from Labradors and a miniature Greyhound to rescue dogs of various mixed breeds. All dogs and handlers are trained and certified by either Therapy Dogs, Inc. or Pet Partners, both national organizations committed to training, testing and certification, regulating, insuring and registering therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers so they are prepared to visit public places.
The volunteers have also participated in an in-depth airport orientation and training, and will be part of the Guest Services volunteer team.
"We are excited to join the small but growing list of airports that offer pet therapy programs," said Tina Kinsey, A.A.E., Marketing & PR Director. "Our program is the only one offered at an airport within two hours of AVL, and is just one more way we are focusing on passengers."
For more information about the program, including the application to become a Paws for Passengers volunteer, visit flyavl.com.