ELMIRA, N.Y. – Future guide dogs had an opportunity to practice going through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at the Elmira Corning Regional Airport (ELM) this week so that they will be more familiar with the checkpoint screening process when they do need to catch a flight.
TSA officials screened 10 puppies and their trainers from the Southern Tier of New York’s Puppy Raisers for 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. Another half dozen dogs explored other areas of the airport courtesy of airport officials, who offered the dogs the opportunity to sniff around the baggage pick-up area and explore near the check-in counters.
“We know that our checkpoint orientation session will result in a smoother checkpoint experience when these puppies graduate into certified guide dogs and return to take a flight,” said TSA’s Assistant Federal Security Director John McCaffrey. “It was a familiarization exercise so the canines and their trainers will 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 our procedures for screening service animals for our officers who were working at the checkpoint.”
This marked the first time that Guiding Eyes dogs have been trained passing through the checkpoint at ELM, although it was the sixth time the group has brought dogs to navigate through the ELM Airport terminal. Similar TSA checkpoint orientations have taken place for service dogs at other New York airports including Greater Binghamton Airport, Greater Rochester International Airport, Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Westchester County Airport, and Long Island MacArthur Airport.
“The orientation session was beneficial for everyone who participated,” McCaffrey said. “The collaborative effort benefitted the guide dogs, their trainers, the airport and TSA.”