ROCHESTER, NY – Future guide dogs had an opportunity to explore the Greater Rochester International Airport terminal including practice going through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint and boarding an airplane this evening (Feb. 8) so that they would be more familiar with the experience of traversing through an airport when they do need to catch a flight.
TSA officials screened nine puppies and their trainers from the Wayne County Puppy Raising Region of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, as they came through the checkpoint in an effort to acclimate the future guide dogs with an important piece of the airport experience—the security checkpoint. The dogs also had the opportunity to explore other areas of the airport courtesy of airport officials, who offered the dogs the chance to sniff around the baggage pick-up area and explore the check-in counter areas of the terminal. American Airlines also allowed them to practice boarding an airplane that was parked at the gate.
The familiarization opportunity will result in a smoother experience when the puppies graduate into certified guide dogs and return to take a flight, according to officials from Guiding Eyes. The familiarization exercise enables the canines and their trainers to know what to expect when the dogs and the people they are trained to guide, return with plans to take a flight.
The orientation session also served as a good review and reinforcement of TSA procedures for screening service animals for the TSA officers who were working at the checkpoint during the familiarization exercise.
“The orientation session was a hit with the dog trainers, the TSA officers and of course with the dogs. There was plenty of tail wagging,” said James Chapman, TSA’s Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director for Rochester. “The collaborative effort benefitted the guide dogs, the airport and TSA and will go a long way to ensuring that the dogs and their owners will have a smooth checkpoint experience in the future.”
Similar TSA checkpoint orientations have taken place for service dogs at other New York airports including Greater Binghamton Airport, Elmira Corning Regional Airport, Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Westchester County Airport and Long Island MacArthur Airport.