That’s Alight, Just Leave It There

Air travel brings people together from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. So there are bound to be cultural clashes. And we’re not just dealing with people, we are also dealing with pets. And we’re dealing with how those people deal with their pets.

Walking through Washington Dulles airport mid-month a passenger in front of me had their dog on a leash. It stopped, did its business, and then they both just kept on going. There was even a pet relief area on the concourse, though admittedly quite a few gates away.

I genuinely wasn’t sure what to do. I was stunned. Naturally I took a photo.

Last year I wrote about a passenger who gave wrong gate information to a woman that refused to clean up after her dog (“[Your] flight got moved to gate 53C. This is the flight to London.”).

And I wrote about a customer service manager who chased down a woman that didn’t clean up after her dog.

I chased her down, stopped in front of her, stopped her in her tracks, and asked her politely to pick up after her dog.

When she replied with, What do you mean?! I might have gotten a little too gruff being a manager and all but snipped back with, “Ma’am, pick up your dog’s poop! NOW!”

She sheepishly went to the restroom (she didn’t carry any bags) to get some towels and clean up.

He wouldn’t allow her to fly because her pet was clearly ‘unwell’ and insisted she pay the pet in cabin fee the next day.

But what should I have done? As a fellow passenger, are we obligated to see something, say something, to keep the terminal clean for fellow passengers? Or do we ignore it and just assume airport employees will clean it up — while a dog’s owner faces no consequences?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Ignore, ignore, ignore. We don’t need confrontation in society as you never know (a) what others are going through or (b) how others will respond. The indignant “ma’am” manager could’ve been harsh toward someone suffering a tragedy. Or she could’ve gotten socked in the face. Who’s a lowly airport employee to tell others what to do, even if it’s right?

    Of course we should clean up after our pets, but it’s an even bigger imperative not to confront others.

  2. Jason, what if you had STEPPED in it and were rushing to catch a flight? Would you be happy that someone chose to ignore it when they could have handed them a tissue and asked them to clean up?

  3. Jason, what if you had STEPPED in it and were rushing to catch a flight? Would you be happy that someone chose to ignore it when they could have handed them a tissue and asked them to clean up?

  4. People act this way because the masses keep quiet. Call them out, and verbally elevate the situation if they refuse to clean up the shit. If someone shit on your front porch would you remain quiet?

  5. @ Jason,

    There are people in this world (all the way up to the top of the societal food chain) who will push to see just how much shit they can get away with. And they will continue to do so until they are confronted.

    “what they’re going through” is no excuse for having a complete disregard for others. By that axiom, aren’t all those others also “going through” something?

    How they will respond when confronted is as big a tell about the offender as it is of the person who confronts them, and the manner in which they are confronted.

  6. Sadly, we live in a world where a few selfish people have no moral compass with which to decide what is right, and what is wrong. They simply don’t know the difference (and I presume to blame whoever raised them as children). The majority of us that do know the difference sadly need to sometimes step up and take on the hard work of teaching the selfish at this late time in their lives. Some ways are better and easier than others. Personal and public confrontation is a lot harder (and riskier!) than ratting the person out to a police officer (if we are lucky enough to have one nearby when we need one) who may (or may not) see it in their scope to do the confrontation for the rest of us. Letting your dog leave it’s waste on the floor of a busy public space, for your fellow travelers to step into, is non-negotiable as unacceptable selfish behavior. We ALL have a responsibility to our fellow passengers to fix that problem – even if it means teaching an adult what is right and what is wrong at an inconvenient and inopportune time.

    For those of you that are raising children (or like me, influencing grandchildren), think hard about the example you set. In my experience, that’s how people figure out what is right, and what is wrong – we do what our role models do.

    In my 20’s (1970s), I was in a streetcar in pristine Zurich, when a new fellow traveler dropped a gum wrapper on the floor of the tram. I am deeply ashamed that at that time I both noticed and did/said nothing. The tram conductor saw, stepped over, picked it up, and presented it to my similarly young colleague, saying (in perfect English) “Pardon me, you seem to have lost your property.” I know that during the next 6 weeks, my companion never did that again (and I’ll bet he never did it again…ever)! Later he told me that he thought for an instant he was going to be dragged into a Swiss jail and charged with littering.

  7. If you’re close enough to take a pic it shouldn’t be that much harder to grab a plastic bag or tissues and pick up the poo and dispose of it before someone steps in it and spreads it.

  8. Dulles/IAD is my home airport. We had a rescue Shepherd for many years, so I always carried (and actually still carry in my pocket) a doggie bag with me at all times. If it were me, I’d probably rush over, smile and say something like, “Sir/ma’am, would you like a doggie bag?” while opening it up and offering it to them. If they didn’t take the bag, I’d probably pick up their dog’s poop for them, tie the bag, and then re-offer them the bag while pointing to the nearest trash can. If they have any sense of social graces at all, I imagine they would take the bag.

    If you don’t have a doggie bag on you (obviously most people won’t), you can just offer any plastic bag, tissue, or paper towel you might have.

  9. Ignore it? Seriously? What is this world coming to? I thought everyone learned in kindergarten we’re responsible for cleaning up our own messes. Barring a medical emergency there is no way in hell I’d remain silent if I witnessed it.
    My wife has a service dog bred and trained by Canine Companions for Independence. CCI invested $45K and two years to breed and train him. If a CCI handler did what the handler above did CCI Canine would take their dog back. And rightly so.

  10. How about saying, excuse me, may I hold your dog’s leash for you while you find something to clean this up, with a smile? This, of course, assumes one has the extra couple of minutes between flights. That’s what I would do. Cheers.

  11. You should tell the person s/he should pick up after the pet. Offered to handle the beast while s/he to get paper towels or whatnot to clean up the mess it created.
    You have the time to take a picture but dont have the guts to do the right thing calling out the offender?

  12. Indefensible. But the airlines also have a duty (no pun intended) to the non-pet travelers to pay for cleaning up these messes since they allow pets to board. Unlike outdoors, where nature will sanitize the surfaces, proper clean up requires more than physical removal.
    So, airlines that allow pets to travel can provide cleaning crews at their expense and either pay for it from their pet surcharge fees or from their ticket sales based on the theory that the customer would not have bought the ticket from that airline if the pet could not board.
    Taxpayers should not have to pay one penny of this cost. That would be like the airport authority telling all travelers if they see something, stop and clean it up (a form of direct tax). And that is the nature of an unfair tax, which, by the way, airport authority’s are particularly good at – maybe better than state lottery boards or large school boards.

  13. I watched in awe at Lexington KY (was sitting in That restaurant post-security) as a woman let her dog poop all over the hall and walked away. Before I could jump up, some poor soul rushing to his flight stepped right in it.

  14. There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling someone out who refuses to pick up after their dog in an airport terminal, and I would argue that if you don’t call that person out, you’re contributing to the downfall of society. My God, what has happened to us. “You don’t know what they’re going through?” I literally don’t care what they’re “going through.” My wife’s mother died, we were heading to PDX, and we still managed to pick up dog shit because IT IS WHAT YOU DO. What is wrong with people?!

  15. You can call someone out in a kind, non-confrontational way. Excuse me sir, your dog pooped, please clean it up.

  16. this whole pet thing on planes and in airports is a another sign of the decline of western civilisation! Animals go in cargo full stop. If you need an animal to be able to fly, get a bus!

    We pander to these people who are taking the p@@@ out of the rest of us!

  17. Why are pets on planes anyway? Or in restaurants for that matter. Hasn’t anyone ever heard of a kennel?

  18. Ignore Ignore Ignore NO WAY This has been done before. When we do not speak out bad things happen

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  19. I think there should be a legal penalty . At least banned from the airport permanently. I would not disapprove of a thorough thrashing .

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