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First a pig, now a rabbit. Big bunny joins SFO’s Wag Brigade

March 19, 2022
5 min read
First a pig, now a rabbit. Big bunny joins SFO’s Wag Brigade
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The Easter Bunny is getting ready to make the rounds. So now seems a very good time for San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to welcome Alex the Great, a 28-pound (and still growing) rabbit to its team of certified stress-relief animals known as the Wag Brigade.

Until now, the brigade has been staffed by a pack of certified therapy dogs – and a Juliana-breed pig named LiLou. But Alex the rabbit seemed to have no trouble at all meeting the brigade’s job requirements and nibbling his way onto the roster.

Alex is a Flemish Giant rabbit, which is the largest breed of domestic rabbits and a breed known for being docile and patient when being handled. Those attributes help make Alex well-suited for Wag Brigade work, which includes visiting with often stressed-out passengers in the terminals.

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Like the other animals on the Wag Brigade, 15-month-old Alex has gone to a special school and earned an Animal Assisted Therapy license through the San Francisco SPCA.

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(Image courtesy of Alex the Great/Instagram)

No doubt is also helps that Alex the Great is already quite the celebrity in San Francisco. The big bunny first leaped into social media prominence last April when its owners, Kei Kato and Josh Row, took their therapy bunny with them to a San Francisco Giants baseball game and he got noticed.

Since then, Alex the Great has been named the Giants’ official Rally Rabbit and the Lucky Rabbit’s Foot for the Golden State Warriors basketball team. The handsome hare has also appeared in commercials for a variety of products and happily hops his way to many other events around town. On social media Alex now has more than 8,500 followers on Instagram.

Not bad for a sickly baby bunny rescued from a central California rabbit farm.

Related: These 9 Adorable Airport Therapy Animals Will Calm Your Nerves

“We were able to talk the farmer into sparing him from that life and we took him home after a significant amount of money,” Alex co-owner Josh Row told TPG via email. “He was covered in fleas and the fur was matted everywhere. We cared for him, and he got healthy, and we quickly saw he had a one-in-a million type of personality.”

(Photo courtesy SFO Airport)

After Alex earned his Animal Assistance Therapy license, he was eligible to apply for a spot on the SFO Wag Brigade. “But since the requirements and training for the brigade was designed for dogs, it seemed unlikely a rabbit would qualify,” said Row. But Alex the Great lived up to his name and passed without an issue. So did his humans, who needed to go through security background checks and a badging process.

Now, as an official member of the SFO’s Wag Brigade of trained stress-relief animals, Alex the Great will be hopping through SFO’s terminals two to three times a month, between the hours of 10:30 and 1 pm. You’ll know he’s on duty because he’ll be the giant rabbit wearing a “Pet Me” vest. If you’re traveling through SFO, check the bunny’s Instagram account to see if he’s due to appear.

Related: A comprehensive guide to traveling with pets

SFO’s Wag Brigade first launched in December 2013 to bring trained animals to the terminals to make passenger travel more enjoyable. Paused during the pandemic, the program returned after a 20-month absence in October 2021 after all the participating animals were recertified by the San Francisco SPCA.

The Wag Brigade is just one example of dozens of therapy dog programs operating at airports across the country. Most are staffed by dogs and their humans, but Denver International Airport’s Canine Animal Therapy Squad (CATS) is made up of 80 dogs and a cat named Zelee. And a therapy cat named Stitches is on the team with more 90 dogs on the Animal Ambassadors team at Minneapolis International Airport (MSP).

Related: 9 Animals Around the Globe Worth Traveling to See

Airports with pet therapy program have information on their websites about scheduling, along with profiles of the animal team members. Some airports even have trading cards for each animal. And quite a few airports have charming names for their canine crews. For example, it’s the Navigator Buddies at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), the Miami Hound Machine at Miami International Airport (MIA), the K9 Crew at DFW International Airport and Paws4Passengers at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy SFO Airport)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases