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Travellers say Pearson Airport pet zone gone to the dogs

Last Updated Jan 3, 2019 at 10:51 am EDT

Pearson Airport may be one of the top-ranked airports in Canada, but some travellers say the dog park there is anything but world class.

The pet zone, located by the departure gates in Terminal 1, is often the last stop for many animals before they board a plane. But for dog owners who use this park, they say the facility doesn’t befit an airport that was recently named North America’s best large airport for customer service.

Laura Tamblyn Watts last used the dog park before Christmas, describing it as a hazardous environment for her pup Remy. The Toronto woman says there were piles of garbage throughout the area, and it was littered with items that could pose a danger to pets.

“When I got there, I couldn’t believe what I saw,” Tamblyn Watts said. “It was filthy, it had cigarette butts everywhere, there were piles of garbage throughout. There really wasn’t a single place for an animal to be. For that matter, it really wasn’t a safe place for a person to be. There was even broken glass on the ground.”

Sonia Stortini and her two-year-old pooch were at Pearson Airport on Wednesday during a layover on their trip from Sault Ste Saint Marie and Calgary, and use the pet zone area near Terminal 1 at least four times a year. Stortini says this is the worst she’s ever seen the area — it was filled with feces, pieces of debris and cigarette butts.

“It’s pretty dirty, there’s a lot of debris around and not that great today,” Stortini said. “It’s a long day when they do a cross-country flight so they [pets] need a place to relive themselves and walk around, so it’s highly important or else they end up staying in their little carrier for eight to 10 hours which I think is unfair to them.

Tamblyn Watts said her concerns aren’t only for the safety of her pup, but for travellers with accessibility issues who depend on their working dogs.

“People with disabilities, particularly people with seeing-eye dogs would have extra problems, because they wouldn’t know necessarily how dangerous and filthy that environment was,” she explains. “So their dogs and they could be at real risk.”

Minutes after CityNews alerted Pearson Airport about these concerns, staff members were sent to clean up the area, even refilling the waste bin with scoop-up bags.

“The pet zones are cleaned regularly, however, it’s clear that an oversight lead to unsatisfactory conditions in this particular pet zone. We’re grateful that the problem was brought to attention so that it could be solved,” said Robin Smith, an airport spokesperson. “Staff have already finished cleaning the area and we have confirmed that high standards are being maintained at both other areas on airport grounds.”

Tamblyn Watts who has used pet zone facilities at several airports in North America, calls this response unacceptable, claiming it was a major, two week oversight.

“For no change to happen between Dec. 21 and today — we’re in a new year and nothing has changed,” she said. “It has to change quickly, this isn’t appropriate anywhere.”

The airport adds that it isn’t mandated to have these pet zones, but does so in an effort to make travel more comfortable for pets.

Pearson currently has three pet zones, two at Terminal 1 and one at Terminal 3.