PHOTOS: DIA’s dog therapy team broke a Guinness World Record

If you’ve ever encountered a therapy animal at Denver International Airport, chances are it was an airport employee.

The Canine Animal Therapy Squad (CATS) has been calming nervous flyers since Oct. 29, 2015 (National Cat Day, of all days), with 28 members from 14 breeds. “Today, the program includes 84 members and 33 breeds as well as one cat (and, of course, their human handlers),” airport officials wrote.

Despite a pandemic “paws” (their language, not ours, but we like it!), the CATS program has resumed with teams donating more than 1,250 hours of time so far in 2022, officials said.

On Thursday, Sept. 15, the 80-plus member team received its due as the world’s largest airport animal-therapy squad. It’s a niche title, to be sure, but one also verified by the Guinness Book of World Records. Dogs and their handlers gathered at Level 5 of the Jeppesen Terminal Thursday morning to fete the four-legged friends and receive a plaque for the title, which will appear in the 2023 book.

“We are extremely proud of our CATS program and grateful for all the volunteers who donate their time to bring joy to our passengers and employees,” said DIA CEO Phil Washington in a press statement. “The continued growth of the program is a testament to the positive impact it has on travelers, and we look forward to welcoming even more teams as we continue to grow this beloved program.”

Want to take part? All CATS are registered with a recognized pet therapy association and are trained and insured, DIA said. “CATS volunteer handlers wishing to apply with their pet must have experience working with a recognized animal therapy organization and must be registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners.” (For more information about joining the program, email [email protected])

Check out our slideshow of the event, and be sure to look up a furry friend next time you need a pre-flight pet or cuddle. (Look for them throughout the facility through their distinctive, violet-plaid “Pet Me” vests.)

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