Around 90 puppies traveled through Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on April 1, 2017, as part of an effort to help them acclimatize to a busy airport environment and prepare for their future role as guide dogs.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), the operator of Newark Airport, coordinated the initiative in partnership with The Seeing Eye, a philanthropic organization dedicated to helping the blind and visually impaired achieve mobility through the use of guide dogs. Employees were also on hand from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and United Airlines.
The puppies were walked through Terminal C at Newark, including the baggage areas, checkpoints, gates and AirTrain, as well as the airfield and a United Airlines plane. Port Authority police also helped to familiarize the dogs with emergency equipment and vehicles, and gave a demonstration of their K-9 unit’s bomb-sniffing skills. Another 90 puppies will be invited back to Newark airport to repeat the training exercise on Saturday (April 8).
Frank Radics, interim deputy general manager, Newark Liberty Airport, said, “PANYNJ is proud to host this valuable program. Since Newark Liberty’s involvement began 23 years ago, this program has trained nearly 3,500 dogs to assist visually impaired passengers navigate busy airports like ours, making air travel a little easier.”
Peggy Gibbon, director of canine development, The Seeing Eye, said, “Training and achieving real-life experience is essential for Seeing Eye puppies. I am impressed with the courtesy shown by the Newark Liberty Airport staff and the pride they take in being part of this important process. These dogs learn to traverse through security checkpoints, become acclimated to the noises of a bustling airport and experience the busy airport environment so none of these experiences bother them when they encounter them as fully trained Seeing Eye dogs.”
Tom Carter, federal security director for New Jersey, TSA, said, “We know that the checkpoint familiarization portion of this event will result in a smoother checkpoint experience when these puppies graduate into certified guide dogs and return to take a flight.
“This opportunity helps ensure that the canines 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 serves as a good review and reinforcement of our procedures for screening service animals for our officers who work at the checkpoint.”