Scared of flying? SFO’s new giant rabbit is here to help

In an effort to console anxious or jumpy travelers, San Francisco International Airport announced a new member to its roster of stress-relief animals.

Alex the Great, a 28-pound Flemish Giant rabbit, is the newest member of SFO’s domesticated comfort cadre called the “Wag Brigade.” The pale sandy hare is expected to regularly visit the airport throughout March to provide patient cuddles for any traveler in need of a mammalian-induced respite.

Local sports fans may recall seeing Alex at a San Francisco Giants game in April 2021 when its owner, Kei Kato, tucked the rabbit in her arms in the stands. Alex stole the show and was even interviewed on camera. Kato told ABC7 at the time that she got the rabbit to help cope with losing her job amid the pandemic and other health stress.

Flemish Giants are considered the largest breed of domesticated rabbit and are noted for their amiable and obedient nature. According to the Maryland Zoo, the species was first imported into the United States from England and Belgium in the 1890s. Their gentle giant temperament will be a welcome addition to the Wag Brigade, which has been soothing SFO travelers’ nerves since the program launched in 2013.

The brigade is composed of mostly dogs — including 17 different puppers such as George Morkie, a playful Maltese/Yorkie mix, and a goldendoodle named Jagger D’ Wagger — which serve in the assisted therapy program. Each animal undergoes the Animal Assisted Therapy Program from the San Francisco SPCA.

(Left to right) LiLou, Jagger, Brixton, Toby and Benga! are part of the Wag Brigade at SFO airport.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGate

Alex alongside Wag Brigade coordinator Jennifer Kazarian.

Alex alongside Wag Brigade coordinator Jennifer Kazarian.

Courtesy of the San Francisco International Airport

Although Alex is the first rabbit to join the brigade, it’s not the first non-canine species to don the “Pet Me” vest while strolling the terminals. LiLou, a Juliana breed pig, became a member in 2016 and received national attention as the “World’s 1st Airport Therapy Pig.” The pig lives in an apartment in Nob Hill and is known for playing a toy piano.

Following a near two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wag Brigade returned to SFO in October 2021.

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