No more RUFF layovers: Airport Therapy Dogs In California (UPDATE 2019)

The first airport therapy dog program in California began at Mineta San Jose Airport the day after 9/11 to help passengers reduce stress and anxiety.  Today there are six airport therapy dog programs in California.

Recognizing that not everyone loves dogs, airport therapy dog teams typically remain stationary. You can find them in an open area making it easy to pet the dogs while those not so fond of puppy love can easily avoid them.

All dogs wear a tabard identifying them as a “Pet me” therapy dogs and are ready to be touched. They can end up being your best friend during your layover.

We have made a list of airport therapy dog programs in California. We encouraged you to emBARK and join the fun.  Petting a pet has many benefits and will help travel anxiety fly away.

Airport therapy dogs in California in 2018

We have provided some handy information to help you find the dogs during your next layover such as the attire they wear, breeds the programs carry, hour and location to see the dogs.

airport therapy dogs california
PHOTO: Mineta San Jose Airport

Mineta San Jose Airport: K-9 Crew 

Attire: Red Scarfs and a therapy dog tag.

Breeds: 12 dogs in total.  The variety of dogs range from 4 golden retrievers; 1 terrier; 1 Weimaraner;  1 cocker spaniel;  2 Rottweilers;  2 standard poodles and 1 Dogue de Bordeaux.

Hours: The dogs usually work two-hour shifts mid-mornings and early afternoons several days a week. There is no set daily schedule and depends on the availability of volunteer handlers.

Where: They walk all airport terminals pre and post-security areas.

airport therapy dogs

Sacramento International Airport: Boarding Area Relaxation Corps (BARC)

Attire: Navy blue vests that say “Pet Me” distinguish them from service animals, as well as garments for the handlers.

Breeds: Dogs range from tiny terriers to a  Great Pyrenees, 35 certified therapy dogs, and their handlers.

Hours: The handlers and the dogs visit the airport at least three times a week, most often from 9-11 a.m.  The schedule varies from week to week, depending on their availability. Laurie Slothower, Communication and Media Officer, Sacramento County Department of Airport said, “Our partner organization recommends visits of no more than two hours because the dogs need their beauty sleep, i.e.,  they get fatigued after two hours.”

Where: Both airport concourses airside (post-security).

airporth therapy dog sfo airport
PHOTO: SFO Airport

San Francisco Airport: Wag Brigade

Attire: Grey vests that say “Pet Me” distinguish them from service animals, as well as vests for the handlers.

Breeds: Maltese-Poodle, Shih-Tzu, Fox Red Labrador, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Goldendoodle, Weimaraner, Sussex spaniel, a Scottish terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Hours: The dogs roam in two-hour increments at any time between 7 a.m -9 p.m daily.

Where:  Terminals 2 and 3.  three mostly, as it’s the most significant and busiest terminal with the most passengers. The airport usually tweets when the dogs are roaming around.

PHOTO: LAX Airport via Facebook

Los Angeles Airport: Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program

Attire: Red Vest “Pet me.”

Breeds: 55 variety of dogs.

Hours:  Doggy love is provided to passengers daily for 1-2 hours.

Where: Any of the eight terminals and where there is high stress (extra long TSA line). They usually have four dogs daily at LAX, past security in the gated areas.

airport therapy dog california
PHOTO: SAN Airport via Facebook

San Diego Airport: Ready, Pet, Go

Attire: Green vest that says “Pet Me” distinguish them from service animals, as well as vests for the handlers.

Breeds: 16 Therapy dog teams with 20 dogs. One of the teams has four certified therapy dogs who are Huskies, and one team has two Goldens. The dogs are various breeds from the large St. Bernard & Golden Doodles, to a tiny miniature poodle and a Shih Tzu.  Gina Bernsen, Director of Visitor Services, told us that all their  “teams are registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.”

Hours: You can get some TLC between the hours of 9 am and 1 pm, weekdays, but not on a daily basis depending on the availability of the team.

Where:  You can find some furry ZEN usually always post-security. Gina Bernsen, Director of Visitor Services, told us that, “…during the SW and Delta computer outages, the dogs were in all the terminals and pre-security as well.” On regular days, they are primarily in Terminal 2 East and West, post-security.


airport therapy dogs california
PHOTO: SBA Airport via Facebook

Santa Barbara Airport

Santa Barbara Airport does not have a team but has Lokee the Therapy Dog. You can meet at Lokee on Mondays and Fridays. Meet Lokee and Larry Reiche his owner, the next time you are passing by. Lokee has his own facebook page!

Petting a dog is much more happy experience than getting patted down by TSA agents. Share and tag your doggy love #airporttherapydogs and spread some love.


Cristina Alcivar

Founder and Editor of Vane Airport Magazine. Passionate about everything well-being, love travel, the ocean, and the sun.