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Paws for Love is a program in which SPCA (of Erie County) volunteers bring their evaluated and approved pets to visit patients and residents in local hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The concept is now being expanded to include visitation to travelers at the BNIA.
"Traveling can create stress and anxieties for passengers," said Kimberley A. Minkel, NFTA Executive Director. "The Paws for Love program is an opportunity for us to provide an overall enhanced customer experience at our airport by providing stress relief and comfort to passengers through this interaction with the dogs."
The BNIA will now be one of seven airports in the U.S. to offer dog therapy programs of this type to passengers. It follows an extensive body of research regarding the overall health benefits to people when they come into contact with dogs and other animals.
"We've long known the impact animals have on the psyches of people," said Gina Browning, SPCA Director of Public Relations. "Since starting this new airport visitation program, the calming effect program dogs have had on anxious travelers has been incredible to witness. Unnerved passengers, frightened children, even those just arriving in Buffalo in distressing circumstances are finding immeasurable comfort in the time they're able to spend with these animals."
The BNIA currently has 22 dogs enrolled in Paws for Love, making it the second-largest program of its type in the country. Working dogs in the terminal will be easily identifiable with florescent lime green SPCA PFL vests with their volunteer in tow.
Both human and canine volunteers will work one-hour shifts, offering comfort and companionship to passengers both pre and post security and at baggage carousels. The dogs and their volunteers will also work in the airport's preview program, which involves airport preview visits by families with autistic or developmentally disabled children.
If you'd like to learn more about SPCA PFL program, or would like to volunteer, visit the SPCA's website, YourSPCA.org, or contact program coordinator Deborah Braun at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 681-0744.