We have a cheer today for possibly the coolest dog ever, Piper, a border collie who is highly skilled in the very important business of chasing birds and other wildlife from areas around airport runways…a non-lethal solution that we wish more airports would adopt. Many times, airports resort to tactics like traps, sirens or even shooting wildlife…as was the case at JFK airport where airport employees cruelly and unnecessarily shot down snowy owls who were in the area.
In fact, it was response to the backlash from the snowy owl shootings—made public by and investigative report by CBS New York featuring Friends of Animals in December 2013—that New York Port Authority said it would adopt a no-kill policy and instead catch and release snowy owls like the program in place at Logan International Airport in Boston. So having an airport decide on its own to use non-lethal or potentially abusive tactics is a refreshing change of pace. Piper helps maintain wildlife control at the Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport, in Michigan by “shooing away” ducks, geese, owls, foxes and other creatures but never actually harms them, his owner Brian Edwards told ABC News. “Border Collies are born for this type of work, they’re herders,” he said.
Dressed in ski mask and boots, Piper has been trained to become accustomed to airport noise and wears specially designed doggy earmuffs to protect his hearing. His specially designed vest allows him to be easily lifted and also carries his identification and a beacon so he can be seen, plus an emergency trauma kit – just in case. Boots protect Piper’s paws from hot pavement and rocks and keeps snow and ice at bay during winter. Piper has a list of duties which include checks for wildlife holes under the perimeter fence, to keep employees, tenants and visitors smiling, to respond to reports of wildlife; and to detect rodents and small mammals before birds of prey do. Airport operations staff claim that using a dog to chase wildlife away is more effective as creatures such as the snowy owl who remember Piper don’t return.