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


Pet Travel: How to Clear Airport Security with a Pet — 611 Comments

  1. It’s obvious after reading all of the above that I will have to find a Plan B – my cat CANNOT be removed from his carrier…we would NEVER get him back in :( He is highly anxious and gets very scared (if we didn’t have to make the trip, believe me, we wouldn’t).

    Will there ever be a way through security where the cat can stay inside the carrier? My flight would be within Europe.

  2. Diane – it is impossible to predict enforcement of airline regulations at the time of boarding, but we would recommend that you speak with the airline and fax them all the information that you have. Get assurances in writing that they will allow this so you can show it to the agent at the gate at the time of boarding.

  3. Urgent: I was approved to fly with my emotional support companion dog to South Africa in cabin temporarily for now. While booking my dog with the medical desk they said they are experiencing an issue because all pets need to be manifest cargo because of South Africa’s animal embargo. I have emailed the import and export unit of South Africa and as well as the agriculture department and was given an application to fill out and pay for to get a dispensation for a cabin letter from South Africa to allow my dog to fly in cabin with me from the U.S. to South Africa and back. The letter states he needs to be checked in as manifest cargo but will fly in cabin for the duration of the flight and as soon as we land in South Africa he will be taken from me and taken to the cargo section to be declared through customs.
    I have all the paper work, doctors letter stating he is my emotional support dog as well as import permit and veterinary documentation/passport. What is the likely hood I’ll be denied to have him travel with me in cabin because of the embargo policy with South Africa and all the documents and permission from South Africa export and import and agriculture department who signed the permit and cabin letter to give permission?
    Also he is a French bulldog and not allowed in cargo to begin with. Please I had to cancel a flight and change it to a new airline. They are going to confirm to make sure I won’t have issues because he is a support companion and not just a pet.

  4. Julia – pets traveling in the cabin will pass through security gates with their owners while their carriers are scanned. Pets traveling in cargo will be scanned in the cargo area. Thousands of pets travel every day, so the airlines have specific processes in place for live animals.

  5. I am leaving this coming Saturday to fly to Barbados with my daughter. What is the airport security rule traveling with pets? I understand with the is is threats word is circulating that bombs are being surgically put in y
    The pets. Or other explosives depending on the size of the pet? How are the airlines put
    Rote time
    no their passengers ?

  6. Lee – we are not aware of any airline that will allow rodents to fly in the cabin. They are chewing animals and would cause quite a bit of havoc if they got loose…

  7. Is anyone familiar with airlines that allow mice or rats on their airlines? Bonus but not required if they can remain in the cabin with me.

  8. Iva – we are not aware of any commercial airline that will allow 3 cages per passenger. Your birds must travel in an airline-compliant pet carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. The requirements for importing birds to a given country vary as to the country you are importing them too. Many countries have become very strict with the continued concerns about Avian Influenza.

  9. Hello,
    I have 5 birds and a bunny I’m planning to leave USA next month and I’m very worry about how my pets and how I will transport them as I do have to change 2 planes.
    Can anyone recommend a airline company that allows about 3 cages per passenger in the cabin.

    And do I need a microchip for my birds?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *