Largest airport therapy-animal programme
Canine Airport Therapy Squad
87 total number
United States (Denver)

Based on the number of active teams (comprising an animal and its handler), the largest therapy-animal programme at an airport is the Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS) at Denver International Airport in Colorado, USA, with 87 volunteer owner-pet pairs on their books as of December 2021.

Despite its name, CATS confusingly is a dog-dominated project; it does however have one feline member: Xeli, who joined in 2017.

CATS celebrated its sixth anniversary in 2021, having been established in 2015. When it started, there were just 28 active teams; that rose to over 100 at its peak (prior to COVID-19). Five of the dogs have been part of the initiative since it was founded: Samson, Emma, Ripley, Chewey and Mattie.

Among the therapy dogs, there are more than 45 different breeds, ranging in size from Yorkshire terriers (Otis) to Irish wolfhounds (Elle). The oldest and youngest members are 16-year-old Buttons and 2-year-old Pilot, respectively.

The first – and longest-running airport therapy-animal programme – is the one in place at Mineta San Jose International Airport in California, USA. It was kick-started by Interfaith Chaplain Volunteer Kathryn Liebschutz and her trained therapy dog Orion (a boxer/Great Dane mix) in September 2001 (shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks) in a bid to help put nervous flyers at ease. Dozens of airports in the USA and beyond have since introduced their very own "paw patrols" with trained therapy animals. While the vast majority of the animals involved are dogs, certain airports boast some more unusual members including a pig (San Francisco International Airport) and miniature horses (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport).