From drug detection to therapy to gardening — animals are some of the hardest working airport staff around

Last Friday, a security dog named Grizz was shot after he escaped on to the tarmac at Auckland Airport.

The incident triggered an international outcry, with many asking why the situation couldn't have been resolved differently.

The response shows the affection we have towards these working dogs, which (along with other animals) have become commonplace in airports, in a variety of roles ranging from drug detection to therapy.

Here are just some of the different kinds of animals earning their keep in airports around the world:


Therapy animals

Some of the Wag Brigade team at San Francisco Airport. Photo / @FlySFO, Twitter
Some of the Wag Brigade team at San Francisco Airport. Photo / @FlySFO, Twitter

Dogs are airport veterans - we've been seeing them around for years, resisting the urge to pat them while hoping they won't get too interested in our suitcases. But at some airports, there are dogs you're actually encouraged to cuddle.

Particularly in the United States - where air travel can be stressful, to say the least - airport therapy dogs are becoming more commonplace. At San Francisco Airport, the "Wag Brigade" was launched in 2013, with a whole range of adorable pups to make you feel a little better when you've just missed your flight.

And just to take it to the next level, the Brigade added its first non-canine member last year: Lilou, the therapy pig. She's even had her nails painted for the occasion.

Ranking: 8/10 pawprints. Who hasn't needed therapy in an airport before?

Garden variety llamas

At Chicago's O'Hare airport, the landscaping is looked after by a team of more than 40 goats, sheep, llamas, donkeys and alpacas from a nearby animal shelter. They've been keeping the vegetation under control for four years.

You'll also find llamas at Portland International Airport - but here they're used as bodyguards. Goats maintain the vegetation, while the llamas were brought in to protect the goats from coyotes.

An airport goat was also spotted on the runway at Kathmandu International Airport last year and a passenger plane was forced to abandon its landing and initiate a "goat-around". The goat turned out to be a member of the airport security team and was caught before any further incident could occur.

Ranking: 6/10 pawprints. An important job, but not very glamorous.

Mascot cat

While not strictly a staff member, Olly the one-eared ginger cat became a beloved mascot for Manchester Airport after she wandered in back in 2007. Workers named her Olly after Olympic House, the main office block of the airport, and built her a special kennel outside.

Olly became so famous she even had a plane named "Olly cat baby" after her. She died in 2015, with travellers from arund the world expressing their grief.

Ranking: 9/10 pawprints. Olly made a lot of people happy, RIP.

Falcon patrol

It seems there's no better way to fight the dangers of bird strike with more birds. Falcon Environmental Services is contracted to airports around the US and Canada, using the birds of prey to direct other birds away from jet engines.

"A falcon guarantees results every time," owner Mark Adam told Wired magazine. "The local birds know that our animals are eaters and they're going to be lunch."

Ranking: 10/10 pawprints. Falcons are cool, especially when they're taking out lesser birds.

Sniffer mice

When it comes to detecting explosives, an Israeli security firm is thinking smaller. A proposed system by X-Test uses mice to sniff out terrorists - and the company claims the tiny creatures can detected explosives more efficiently than humans, dogs or machines.

Rather than having mice run all over passengers and their luggage, they're contained in special cages at security check points where they can discreetly check for certain substances. The mice can be trained to identify and signal when they find a threat.

Ranking: 5/10 pawprints. Seems like too much potential trouble.