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LAX To Let The Dogs Out For Passenger Relaxation Therapy

LOS ANGELES ( — The next time you visit Los Angeles International Airport, you might make a furry friend while you wait to catch your flight.

Monday marked the launch of the PUP (Pets Unstressing Passengers) program, a new customer service initiative at LAX designed to reduce stress by surrounding travelers with various types of adorable dogs.

The program revolves around passenger encounters with one of several uniformed canines near boarding gates, baggage claim and ticketing lobbies, and other areas throughout LAX.

Heidi Huebner, Director of Volunteers at LAX, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO even the most stressed-out passengers calm down when there's a cute little puppy around.

Puppy program debuts at LAX

"When you walk in with the dogs, you feel the stress level drop immediately," Huebner said. "People start smiling, people start talking to each other, they're taking pictures, they're hugging the dogs."

The dogs - which are certified with Therapy Dogs Inc., a national nonprofit organization - will undergo training at LAX to measure compatibility between the volunteer and the dog. They will then roam the terminals to visit with passengers behind the gated boarding areas, Huebner said.

About 30 handlers have volunteered for the two-hour shifts ahead of National Volunteer Week from April 21-27.

Research has shown that pet therapy creates relaxation, including decreased blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate - which all could come in handy at an airport that was rated by Travel and Leisure Magazine as the second-worst airport in 2012 when it comes to passenger satisfaction.

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