Canine Companions, the largest global provider of service dogs, recently teamed up with TSA at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), assisting disabled individuals and their guide dogs. The familiarization event provided future travelers and their guide dogs with first-hand experience in navigating the airport and security screening environment well ahead of their departure. The event offered participants information and guidance that will better prepare them for a less stressful airport experience next time they fly.
Richard Pryor, the TSA Customer Service Manager for FLL, coordinates between Canine Companions, the individuals and Broward County Aviation. Once he strategizes with everyone involved, he sets up the checkpoint for the dogs to get adjusted.
Free of charge to recipients, Canine Companions provides service dogs to adults, children, veterans with disabilities and facility dogs to professionals working in healthcare, criminal justice and educational settings. The concept of service dogs for people with physical disabilities began with Canine Companions in 1975 in a home office and a garage.
Canine Companions uses Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and mixes of these two breeds. Most of their dogs come from Canine Companions selective breeding program.
Once the dog has gotten comfortable with the screening process, Pryor brings the participants together and talks about what worked and what didn’t and provides information about the TSA Cares program.
A service dog can pull their partner in a manual wheelchair, push buttons for elevators or automatic doors, pick up dropped keys or even assist with business transactions by transferring money, receipts, and packages.
The most enjoyable process of Canine Companions is “Putting the people at ease so they can feel comfortable,” said Pryor.