Pet Travel: How to Clear Airport Security with a Pet

Pet Travel - Clearing Airport Security with a PetYou and your pet are traveling in the cabin of an airplane together. You have checked in at the reservation desk, your pet is quietly lying down in their airline compliant pet carrier, you have tickets and possessions in hand. Everything is going according to plan. You proceed to the TSA security checkpoint. As you wait in the line, you wonder – what is coming next? How will TSA officials deal with your furry traveling companion?

PetTravel has received many questions about how people traveling with pets will be treated once they get to the front of the security line. Certainly, with all the confusion at security checkpoints and the flow of passengers intent on clearing the line and proceeding to their gate as quickly as possible, it is helpful to know how you and your pet will be cleared through security.

According to TSA: “Our security procedures do not prohibit you from bringing a pet on your flight. You should contact your airline or travel agent, however, before arriving at the airport to determine your airline’s policy on traveling with pets.”

Security Screening

More from TSA: “You will need to present the animal to the Security Officers at the checkpoint. You may walk your animal through the metal detector with you. If this is not possible, your animal will have to undergo a secondary screening, including a visual and physical inspection by our Security Officers. Your animal will NEVER be placed through an X-ray machine. However, you may be asked to remove your animal from its carrier so that the carrier can be placed on the X-Ray machine.”

There is a good chance that you will be asked to remove your pet from the carrier so that the carrier can be run through the x-ray machine. You will walk through the upright metal detector with your pet. If you are traveling with a pet who is high spirited or scares easily, you can request a room so that your pet will not escape should you not be able to contain them when out of the carrier.

There has been a lot of news lately regarding the introduction of the controversial body scanners in many airports. If the old stand up metal detectors have been replaced with body scanners, both the pet and the owner are subject to pat down. Again, you will remove the pet from the carrier and make it available to security officers should they decide to inspect your pet. Should you require a pat down, you should put your pet back in the carrier first.

Being prepared is key to traveling with your pet. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your gate. Keep your accessories (coat, purse, laptop or other items you must carry) at a minimum so you will have free hands to handle your pet at security checkpoints. Take your pet out of the carrier after you have removed your shoes, belt, etc. and put your items on the table to be scanned. Be sure and carry a leash in the carrier to loop around your wrist to be sure that your pet cannot escape when you remove them from the carrier. Even calm pets can get nervous and scared when around groups of people and in unfamiliar environments.

We would welcome your feedback about your experiences at security checkpoints. Please make a comment so that you can help others who are traveling with their pet. We appreciate your time.

More information on pet travel by air

460 comments to Pet Travel: How to Clear Airport Security with a Pet

  • Hello Christina – Lufthansa has the best route we could find between Pisa and Lubbock, although it stops in Rome, Frankfurt and Denver before reaching Lubbock. All layovers are short and there should be enough time in Denver to clear customs. Unless you originate and/or terminate in a major city, there will be connecting flights. Try contacting them to inquire.
    Hope this helps.

  • Christina

    I am planning on flying from Pisa, Italy to Lubbock, Texas in mid December. I have 2 11 pound cats that my husband and I intend to have as carry on as we are aware of cold weather restrictions for cargo/checked baggage. Any suggestions on what airlines to fly with? We will be traveling on US military orders by the way, not sure if that will have any effect on the matter.

  • My Golden Retriever is traveling with me to England. Since she is ESA per the latest ADA regulations, we are flying with an international airline that is agreeable to her in the cabin with me.
    My question is about TSA and the security checkpoint in the USA:
    I have read (so much! on all this) that it is advisable to bring the dog to the airport ten days ahead of the flight to meet TSA and let the dog see the place, so forth. But I am not seeing info specific to that on the TSA links that come up regarding pet travel. Does anyone have experience with this? The idea definitely seems sound, but if TSA is too busy, perhaps they prefer not? I would appreciate suggestions on where to find reliable guidance as to security’s preference.
    Thank you for this article and all the input in the comments!

  • What country are you wanting to travel from and what country are you traveling to?

  • LUC


  • Katri – the only airlines that can handle the summer heat are United and Delta. You should fly early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are not as extreme to reduce risk for your pet. As for the height requirements, many airlines quote maximum requirements for hard carriers. When traveling with a soft sided carrier that can compress, the carrier can normally fit under the seat. Did you clarify that with the airline?

  • Katri

    Hello – My husband am moving from the US to Finland and need to bring our 2 cats with us. Now ran into a problem. You cannot transport animals via cargo from JFK in July and August. The only airline that flies direct has very strict size requirements with both hard and soft carriers having to be 20 cm / 8″ tall only. I believe the cats would be ok (each in their own carrier), but do such low height carriers exist? I didn’t find any on this website. Thank you!

  • Michele – you should contact TSA for the answer to this question. Email: Phone: 1-866-289-9673

  • Michele c

    , I wanted to bring along citronella bark collars as I fear my dogs may become nervous and bark and asked to leave the cabin. Will TSA permit me to being them?

  • Sophia – it sounds like the height is fine. Is the length sufficient? If so, and you bought the bags from Delta, we do not understand why they are giving you a hard time. We have never heard that a medium-sized, soft-sided carrier was refused boarding.

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