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      Four-legged flyers get a leg up on relief

      A ribbon biting ceremony launched Delta Air Lines first airside service animal relief area near gate A-34 of the McNamara Terminal.

      Dogs on the go now have a place to 'go' thanks to a new animal relief area at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

      A ribbon biting ceremony launched Delta Air Lines first airside service animal relief area near gate A-34 of the McNamara Terminal.

      The new facility, which some employees have dubbed "Central Bark," is a much more convenient location for passengers to take their service animals.

      "Prior to the opening of this facility, connecting passengers with service animals would need to go outside to find the relief area on the International Arrivals level," said Airport Authority CEO Thomas Naughton. "This is a convenient, time-saving and easy-to-find location."

      Designed by Arconcepts, Inc. and built by The Peterson Companies, Inc., the relief area was officially dedicated Tuesday with the assistance of service dogs provided by Michigan-based PAWS With A Cause.

      "Having the relief area inside of security will allow the service dogs to travel more comfortably," said Deb Davis, Community Outreach Manager for PAWS With A Cause. "This will be a fantastic convenience for their handlers whose travels take them through Detroit Metro Airport."

      Inside the relief area are two "porch potties," one with simulated grass, a second with real grass, and even a fake fire hydrant. Solid waste disposal bags and disposal instructions are available and mini sprinkler systems rinse the grass after each animal has accomplished its duty with all due dignity. The wide entrance easily accommodates wheelchairs while blocking the view of passersby.

      "We know that traveling with pets is important to our customers and we're quite pleased to offer this new convenience whether customers are beginning or ending their travel in Detroit or connecting across the globe at our hub here," said John Fechushak, Delta's Vice-President-Detroit Hub.

      "Transportation Security Administration is pleased that Detroit Metro Airport and Delta Air Lines are providing this new facility," said TSA Public Affairs spokesman Jim McKinney. "It relieves us of having to re-screen customers who simply need to provide a break for their service animals."

      "Passengers with special needs are important to us," added Naughton. "When they have a choice, we hope customers traveling with service animals will choose to connect in Detroit."