Denver International Airport (DEN) has celebrated the three-year anniversary of its beloved canine airport therapy squad (CATS). The popular program, initiated in 2015, has more than quadrupled in size and is the largest airport program of its kind in the USA.
The CATS program is designed to help relax and delight passengers on their journey through DEN. These furry volunteers and their human companions can be found throughout the airport, offering a chance to pet the animals and take photos with DEN passengers.
The DEN CATS program began with 28 registered therapy dogs representing 14 breeds. Today, the program has grown to more than 114 dogs representing more than 45 breeds and one domestic shorthair cat. Breeds include Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Dachshunds.
All CATS teams work a minimum of 10 hours per quarter. While the dates of visits are flexible, CATS and their handlers average three visits each month and walk the concourses. Each of the CATS has his or her own trading card that includes interesting facts about them, including their “pet peeves.”
Members of the CATS teams are chosen after an interview and testing process. Each dog/cat is a family pet and must be shown to have a calm, friendly demeanor in public. The animals and their owners are trained, registered, certified and insured by certified therapy organizations, and an annual recertification is required for both dog and owner.
Each CATS team must have therapy experience at another facility before service at DEN. In addition, all CATS volunteers complete DEN customer service training and field evaluations to ensure the airport’s busy environment is a good fit for both human and animal. Human volunteers go through airport security background checks, fingerprinting, and security testing prior to receiving an airport ID badge.