PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The number of travelers bringing animals to the airport has skyrocketed across the country — and some have even caused a bit of chaos right here in the Northwest.
So now, the Port of Portland said it’s going to crack down at PDX starting this summer travel season in order to keep the airport from going to the dogs.
When you fly through Portland International Airport, you’ll likely be sharing space with a growing number of furry travelers.
American Airlines is reporting a 40% increase in animals in its cabins alone. United reported a 75% spike with comfort animals — growing from 43,000 in 2016 to 73,000 in 2017. Pigs, ducks, horses and even peacocks have all flown out as support animals, so in order to keep up, airports have been installing larger pet relief areas.
However, with all the animals afoot, it does pose some serious problems.
The animals sometimes make a mess on the airport’s carpet instead of the designated relief areas — something KOIN 6 News witnessed a schnauzer do while at PDX.
His owner, who didn’t give her name, said, “Dogs don’t like using the astroturf, especially when it stinks.”
Another pet owner knew her dog had to go and started making their way toward the pet relief area, but her dog couldn’t hold it.
“I knew she had to go, so I started heading this way and she couldn’t make it that far, apparently,” she said. “So I had to pick that poop up.”
While other travelers may not notice the frequent pet accidents, the airport does.
Portland International Airport spokesperson Kama Simonds said 13% of the airport’s janitorial calls were to clean up pet messes in 2017.
“We are finding or hearing reports of 3-4 times a day,” Simonds told KOIN 6 News.
That number is on track to continue increasing. Two years ago, the airport said janitors responded to 185 calls for cleanup — at a cost of over $5,000. One year later, that number jumped to 260 calls with cleanup costs reaching $7,852.
Simonds said, “That’s nearly $8,000 and those are simply the ones we know of as a fact.”
There’s a steady increase in calls from 2016 to 2017 with big jumps in December for the holiday travel season. All of the accidents and cleanups are creating wear and tear on the airport’s $13 million carpet.
“It’s something we would prefer dogs not use as their dumping ground,” Simonds said.
Not only does it create a mess, but it’s also a health hazard.
Security video from April shows a large dog having an accident. Its owners tried to clean up and alerted staff. But before janitors could arrive, other passengers already walked over it, some dragged their luggage through it and another dog walked on top of it.
“They are worried about getting where they are going and looking up for their gates,” Simonds said. “They don’t necessarily think like they might in a park to look down, so we’ve kind of had some instances where suitcases have been dragged through and it’s just unpleasant, it’s really unpleasant.”
It’s not only people who work at the airport who are fed up with animal messes. Documented complaints from other passengers have increased from only one in 2013 to 6 in 2017.
Some people are downright disgusted with the situation.
“There are some people that have to have the dog out for whatever, their own personal, emotional support nature or such, but I just don’t think it’s right,” traveler Kathy Matheson said.
Matheson is a frequent traveler — and so is her dog. She said it’s “standard procedure” to keep him in his carrier.
“I don’t want him to be a nuisance for anyone and I consider it a privilege to fly with him, so I’m a rules follower,” she said.
Having animals at the airport can also be dangerous. Police and TSA dogs have been attacked by travelers’ dogs. Another security video shows a dog getting into a fight with a K-9 trying to keep the airport secure.
According to police, a 5-year-old girl who was petting a dog at PDX in December was bit in the face and taken to the hospital. The owner was given a violation.
Simonds added that there are also travelers who don’t like or feel comfortable around dogs — and there are some dogs who don’t like people, which is why she says only trained service animals should be out of a carrier. Pets and emotional support animals should be kenneled except in the relief room.
“We had an emotional support dog traveling with its’ emotional support dog,” Simonds said while laughing. “You can’t make it up.”
Starting in June, airport staff will launch an education campaign asking travelers:
Is it a pet or a service animal?
What service does it provide?
“If it’s a service animal, it’s projected under the ADA, and that’s its own class, but folks who think emotional support animals are service animals, we need to work some, do some more education around that topic,” Simonds said.
Violators could face a $250 citation.
Matheson is one of those who believes in doing it right and being respectful of the airport’s rules.
“I just think you have to be respectful of the rules and appreciative of the fact that you have this privilege to bring your pet,” she said.