Pet Travel: How to Clear Airport Security with a Pet

Clearing pets through TSA securityYou 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.”

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 or get them back in the carrier once clearing security. You should allow extra time for this.

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 non-metallic 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.

You can either carry your pet or let it walk beside you through the scanner. Once cleared, you can put your cat or dog back in the carrier.

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 — 875 Comments

  1. Anael – arrive at security early and ask for a private room. If the agent will not comply, then ask for a supervisor. Every airport should be able to accommodate this. That way, you can remove your cat from the carrier in an enclosed room thus lessening the chances to escape. You also may consider a pet calmer like these or speak with your vet about a very mild sedative: Be sure and try it at home before traveling.

  2. Hi,

    I am traveling back to Israel with both my cats from NYC.
    one cat is ok- she will cause no problem,
    but the other cat is INSANE and scary when he get scared, I am dreading the moment of security, there is absolutely no way I could carry him on my hands, nor besides me on a leash.
    any advice?…….

  3. TSA will not require that your ESA be in a carrier. If your leash or harness has no metal on it, you can walk through the scanners with your on a leash or harness. If this is not the case, you will hold your ESA and walk through the scanner with it if your ESA is small enough to hold. You can find a non-metal leash here: and a harness here: We will note that these products are not required, but for your convenience.

  4. I am travelling LAX to YVR with a small (10lb)ESA dog. The carrier (West Jet) has all documentation approved and advises that as an ESA she can remain on my lap and does not need to be on floor and so no carrier needed.Can I walk my dog through TSA security on her leash so I then do not need a pet carrier on the trip…she has never been in carrier before and is always carried or walked…would be stressful and much more complicated getting a carrier unless it is required by TSA.

  5. Jazzy- because you are flying domestically within the United States, your airline’s regulations will preside. You can find United’s pet policy here: TSA’s responsibility is to ensure security, not to check for health certificates. We are not aware that United will require a health certificate although it is good practice to travel with one.

  6. Hi.
    I am flyingn with my cat from Raleigh, NC to Sacramento, CA with a connecting flight in Houston, TX. United says that they don’t require and medical documentation but that the TSA might ask for a health certificate. Do I need to take my pet to the vet to obtain this to show to the TSA agents, or will we be fine with just his rabies documents? Thanks

  7. Your veterinarian will need to sign a heath certificate attesting that your dog is in good enough health to fly. The airlines should not have a problem as long as there is not a layover where they will be caring for it. If this is the case, then you need to contact your airline to discuss your dog’s care. This assumes that your dog is flying in the cargo hold. If your dog is small enough to fly in the cabin with you, then there should be no problems.

  8. My dog got injured in an accident and he does not use one of his back legs… is there any options for him to travel? Can he travel?

  9. Wagner – as your French Bulldog is flying in the cabin, it will need an airline-compliant carrier like these: It should be a soft-sided carrier which can “squish” down to get under the seat. We can’t predict enforcement of your airline’s rules but would say that you can contact your airline and ask how much room is under the seat in front of you on the specific aircraft that serves your route. Also, reserve the window seat. Get your carrier as soon as you can and get your dog acclimated to it. Layer pet pads in the carrier so that you have fresh ones if accidents should occur. As for a callmer, you can see if any herbal ones are available in neighborhood pet stores or discuss the use of a very mild tranquilizer with your vet. A puppy is young and your vet would know how safe that would be.

  10. Hi I will be flying the next days from from Austria to Madrid and after Costa Rica with a french bulldog 3 months old and 25 days she goes with me in the cabin,I dont know what to expect because what I understand the measures of the box all together can be only 105 cm what happen if is more any suggestions on what kind of box can I buy?is there any pill that I can use to relax the dog for the fly because is almost 10 hours flying,thanks so much hope you can help me guys

  11. Mic – the agent at check-in will verify that your iguanas’ carrier is compliant. What airline are you flying?

  12. We are flying with an airline in spain they have agreed to fly our 2 green iguanas in cabun with us.Who checks at the airport that the cage and animal is not to big or small meaning IATA aproved

  13. Allen – each airline generally specifies the minimum age of an animal they will be transporting as 8 weeks. With Lufthansa, it is according to country regulations. That said, what is more concerning is that you are changing airline companies in Germany. In order to do this and pay the pet fee for the leg you are flying on Condor, you will need to clear customs and enter Germany. This country does not permit the entrance of unvaccinated pets that are less than 3 months and 21 days old. If you were staying on Lufthansa, you could transit the country. We are not sure if Condor and Lufthansa share the same international terminal and if you could pay your pet fees for Condor in advance, thus not requiring to access their check-in desk, but you may want to contact them to find out.

  14. Hello. I have a 9 week old kitten that we got in Spain. We are flying back to the US, but through Germany. The whole trip will take one day. We go from Madrid to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, then from Frankfurt to Seattle on Condor. We have booked our kitten with the Airlines already, but when I did so, I forgot to tell them how old he is. The veterinarian is ok with him flying, but thinks the airline will say he’s too young. Also, not sure what we have to do in Germany as we go from Lufthansa to their codeshare Condor. Any advice?

  15. Susan,
    We are flying to Paris from Madrid then taking the ferry to Ireland. We will have the health certificate for entering Spain and submit the advanced notice of import to Ireland.

  16. Leigh Ann – as your pets are flying in and out of Ireland on Iberia, they will transit the country and should not be subject to any declaration or inspection. Have you complied with import requirements for Ireland?

  17. Susan,
    Thank you for your response. Just to clarify, we do not declare the bird or rabbit in Madrid? Therefore no inspection in Madrid?

  18. Leigh Ann – as you are staying on Iberia in and out of Madrid, you will stay in the secure area of the airport until you board your next flight on Iberia. Yes, your carrier must be x-rayed by TSA. You should ask for a private room to remove your bird from the carrier. If the TSA officer will not accommodate you, then ask for a supervisor. Be sure and allot extra time for this request.

  19. Hello,
    My husband and I are moving from US to Ireland and will be taking our bird and rabbit with us. On Iberia we can fly with them in the cabin from San Francisco to Madrid then to Paris. From France we will be taking a ferry to Ireland. All this so that they do not have to fly in Cargo. My question is, when we arrive in Madrid, do we clear customs before going to our onward flight to Paris? Or do we only clear customs in Paris when we leave the airport? Also, do you know if TSA in SF will require the bird to be taken out of its carrier at security check point?

    Leigh Ann

  20. what is the best kind of non metallic cat collar and lease? ( I have to purchase these for our two cats before we fly to Fl.)

  21. Tracy – Spirit and Southwest occupy different terminals at FLL and, although plans are in the works for passengers to be able to access all terminals without clearing security, those plans have not been implemented yet. Not sure how long your layover is in FLL and hard to estimate traffic when you board your next flight. You can find a map of the terminals and the airlines that serve them here: TSA has a program called Pre-Check involving pre-approval but you have to apply for it. More information about it here:

  22. Hello,
    We are traveling on Southwest/Spirit on separate legs from Raleigh to US Virgin Islands. In Ft Lauderdale, we transfer from Southwest to Spirit. We have paid for tickets for our pet on both airlines, but are afraid that if we have to exit security area with our pet in FLL, we will miss our connection. Why should we have to exit security (when the pet will be checked by TSA in Raleigh upon departure) when we will still be in secured terminal, just to be rechecked in FLL? Spirit does not do the actual checks, they are done by TSA. Can I just take the TSA security tag to the Spirit gate in FLL when I board the Spirit flight? I can’t get a clear answer from Spirit on this, even after multiple calls. We are not checking bags and are obtaining boarding passes online…at least I hope so, since I’m afraid the “pet” designation might change the availability of our online boarding passes.

  23. Elizabeth – if you leave the airport, then your dog will need to clear customs and enter Germany and, in this case, you should have an EU health certificate for Germany. You can use the same certificate to enter Austria.

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