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 — 945 Comments

  1. Flying Seattle to Alaska with a 3 pound mini Yorki , the airline does not require health record , so who needs to see the certificate , ticket agent or TSA agent ?

  2. Emm – your kittens will need to be removed from their carrier so the carrier can go through the x-ray machine. If it would be too much for both of you to handle 4 kittens, request a room where you can remove your kitties from the carrier and the TSA agent can take the carriers to the x-ray machine. Be sure not only to layer pet pads in the carriers, but tuck a few in a pocket. You may need to take a carrier to the bathroom and it is helpful to have a clean pad underneath the soiled one. Not sure if this addresses options. Let us know if we answered your questions.

  3. Hello, I have a question about air travel concerning kittens. I and my partner will be flying from Denver, CO back home to Alaska with a total of four kittens. From what I understand Alaskan airlines has a limit on two kittens 8wks to 6mo that can fit in one carrier and all will be 8wks by the time of travel and would be in the cabin.

    Are there any tips for getting through the airport safely? And what options may you recommend?

  4. Leysan – it totally depends on what country your dog is traveling from and to. If you can provide that information, we will be better able to answer your question.

  5. Hi,

    I have a question. I’m bringing a dog (just regular mat) by cargo. We are trying to decide if we need a broker to clear the costum. Does anybody know how hard is it? Can we do it ourselves? Is there a lot do things to consider?
    Thank you

  6. We are not aware of any changes to AA policies for carry on pets and they don’t specify a health certificate on domestic flights. (although it is a good idea to travel with one.)

  7. Hi there! Who had experience with American Airlines domestic flights? I am totally confused. Do I need health certificate to have my cat in the cabin (carry-on)? AA site says – pay, cat should be older than 8 weeks, have a bag. Checked-in pets should have certificate. Customer service says – for both. Any experience?

  8. I am going to a reptile show in German next year, and would like to buy some frogs and flight back with them to Ireland (Dublin), how this be possible?

  9. Marlon – try Swiss Air. They fly from LHR to JFK and they have indicated that they fly pets in the cabin out of the UK.

  10. I am planning to leave the UK with a dog who was issued a puppy passport but
    we have not yet utilized this service He is a 5yr old ,7lb yorkie and is easily frightened Which Airline will be to willing to allow him to travel with me in the cabin Our destination is JFK

  11. Lila – it is always good to travel with a health certificate, but whether it is required depends on your airline’s pet policy. Most do not require a health certificate for pets traveling in the cabin on domestic flights.

  12. Serena – you can absolutely ask for a screening room so that you can safely remove your kitty from its carrier. You should be able to return it to the carrier before leaving the room. Having your kitty freak out and bolt from your arms is not going to make for a good trip.

  13. I am going to Georgia to pick up a ten week old puppy and flying back to TN. The breeder says when she ships a puppy she has to provide a health record from a vet, is this also required of pets traveling in cabin with an adult?

  14. Hi, I am wondering if my cat NEEDS a harness/leash or collar/leash to go through the security checkpoint. She does not want to wear it and we leave next Friday, the 28th! I am not too worried about her escaping from my arms, although this is a slight concern of mine as well. I am more worried that I will not be allowed to even take her out of the carrier for inspection without a harness or collar. I will be traveling domestically in the U.S (From Miami to Indianapolis). I am thinking to ask for a private screening. Advice? Thanks so much

  15. Toshi – Australia has a lot of requirements for animals entering from any country and a minimum of 10 days of quarantine. What country are your cats traveling from?

  16. Kel – the requirements for bringing a puppy to Nigeria are listed here: They are pretty strict. Your puppy will need to be a minimum of 7 months before entering. We are not aware of any exceptions for unvaccinated puppies under 3 months of age but you can ask veterinary authorities in your country if one exists.

  17. Marie – the regulations for traveling with a puppy to the US were changed last year. If you are accompanying your puppy to the US from Puerto Rico, it must be vaccinated for rabies no sooner than 3 months of age and wait for 30 days prior to entering the US. The countries that are exempt from this requirement are listed here under step #6.

  18. I am from Nigeria, but i am visiting NJ for the summer, i am also planning on adopting or getting a puppy pug dog, will they let me bring my new puppy back to Nigeria with me?. Are there things i should know before goin through this process? Thanks

  19. I am bringing my puppy from Dominican Republic to Florida. What are the rules in terms of vaccination, because I have read it has to have the rabies, at 3 months, and then I need to wait 30 days? is this for any personal pet? I have heard people do travel and they don’t need to wait, is there a number I need to call? Because I was told that people travel all the time, without having to wait until the puppy is 4 months. It will be staying with me, not for import or selling..thanks

  20. this is the most helpful website that i have found on the web in relation to basically any and all kinds of pet travel questions, thank you!!!

  21. Libby – a pet can only be accompanied by an adult passenger who is 18 years of age or older.

  22. Hi, my cousins are coming down this summer and have a dog that they would like to bring for me. They are 16 and 15 and I was wondering if you had to be 18 or older to bring dogs on a plane. They will be using southwest if that matters, thanks

  23. Terri – we have yet to run across an airline that will allow mice in the cabin. They can travel on the same plane as you as checked baggage in the cargo hold as long as your airline offers that service. (most do) They will need a hard plastic crate with a secure, locking door and adequate ventilation. Contact your airline for details or find more details here:

  24. Molly – The 21 day wait is for pets that are due and just received a booster. It is a minimum of 21 days. If your cats had their vaccinations 6 months ago and they are not expired, you have met the requirement. The comment with the asterick is saying that the 21 day wait does not apply if your cats were previously vaccinated prior to their booster as long as the previous vaccination had not expired. In other words, your cats can have a rabies booster today and enter Ecuador tomorrow if they were previously vaccinated and the vaccination had not expired before they were re-vaccinated.

  25. Hi, Can I take a flight with my two fancy mice? I have plastic pet carrier that fits inside my carry on.

  26. Debbie – arrive at the gate well in advance and ask for a screening room. If the TSA attendant does not comply, ask for a supervisor. Once you are in the room, it will be quiet and you will take your kitty out of the carrier. The agent will take the carrier to the x-ray machine. You can hold your cat and pass through the checkpoint together. See our Facebook page for details.

  27. What exactly does the following mean? This is from the USDA cat certificate in order to get my cats into Ecuador. What does at least 21 days mean? If the had shots a couple-few years in the past? I thought I read only rabies were required to get into Ecuador.

    3. The cat must have been vaccinated at least 21 days prior to the date of shipment against the following diseases, taking into account the age of the pet to be admitted to the country: Deben haber sido vacunados al menos 21 días previos a la fecha de embarque contra las siguientes enfermedades, tomando en cuenta la edad de la mascota a ser internada al país:

    *21 day wait does not apply to booster vaccines given within the period of validity of the previous vaccination.
    a) Rhinotracheitis / Rinotraqueitis Date: _______ Type: _________ Brand: ________________
    b) Panleukopenia / Panleucopenia Date: _______ Type: _________ Brand: ________________
    c) Calicivirus / Calicivirus Date: _______ Type: _________ Brand: ________________
    d) Rabies (only for animals older than 3 months) Date: _______ Type: _________ Brand: ________________
    Rabia (solo para animales mayores de 3 meses)
    A current vaccination history record is required.
    Carné de vacunas: este debe estar vigente

  28. I have looked on AGROCALIDAD to find requirements and the timeline I need to follow to bring my cats into Ecuador. It is in Spanish and am unable to read this. Can you help me with everything I will need to know or send me where I need to get this in English? I am in America as are my cats.
    Thanks, Molly

  29. I will be moving soon and will be flying. My cat will need to come on the plane with me. I’ve read that I would need to take her out of the carrying case for screening. She has never flown before and does not do well with people other than me. I’m afraid to take her out of the carrier as she may get scared and jump out of my arms. Any suggestions? Thank you

  30. Jen – good question which we have never been asked before. This would be a TSA call. You may want to go to your local airport and ask for a TSA supervisor and inquire. Or try inquiring by email and get the response in writing.

  31. I am taking my 14 yr old to the airport n since he is an unaccompanied minor they let me walk him to the gate. I am also moving with my cat out of state n need to bring her with me. As long as she is in a carrier can I go through security with her if her n I are not flying?

  32. Cindy – if your dog is traveling in the hold, there must be a food/water bowl mounted on the crate door. You should freeze water in the bowl before checking your dog in at the airport. If your dog is traveling in the cabin with you, you should limit food during the flight as it may stimulate your pet’s bowels. Little pieces of kibble should be fine and you can feed it to him by unzipping the carrier just a little bit to get your fingers in the bag. As for water, you can use this nifty water bottle top or give your pet a piece of ice. ( or use something like this:

  33. Hi I’m bringing my dog with me and i want to know if I have to put food and water in the dog carrier before I get on the plane or if I can put food and water while I’m in the plane sitting in my seat

  34. Elena – the United States will accept the EU pet passport. They will need proof of rabies vaccination no sooner than 30 days prior to import. You should also travel with a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel.

  35. Hi Jil – the way your turtle can fly depends on your airline’s pet policy. We do not know of any commercial airline that will allow turtles to travel in the cabin. Contact your airline to see if it will be allowed to fly as checked baggage in the hold. You will need a pet crate for it to protect it when traveling.

  36. Hello! Please advise what kind of documents I will need to enter with my dog to USA, Boston airport, arriving from Tashkent(uzbekistan) via Istanbul?
    My dog (Pekinese, 6.5 kilos) is the holder of a valid EU Pet Passport, microchipped with all vaccinations needed in the EU.
    Thank you very much for the information.

  37. Hi:) my name’s jil. I just want to know if can i bring my turtle to LAX airport. Because I will be traveling to San Jose.

  38. Hello Iris – to leave Greece and enter Norway, your cat will need to be microchipped, then vaccinated for rabies (in that order, but the same vet visit is fine). Ask your vet to get your cat an EU Pet Passport and 21 days after the rabies vaccination, you will be good to go!

  39. Hi, i am travelling from Greece to Norway and i want to take my cat with me. She doesnt have a micro-chip so do i have to insert her one? How much will that cost? And in addition does my cat need a passport or only a health book(I don’t how to call it so i hope you understand)?

  40. The EU considers all of South Africa as high-rabies, so you will need to prepare to bring a dog, cat or ferret to Malta. Your pet will need a titer test after microchip and rabies vaccination no sooner than 3 months before entering Malta. You can find more details here with links to instructions and forms if you need them:

  41. Is Cape Town a controlled rabies area? I would like to fly my pet to Malta, via Frinkfurt in Transit?

  42. Kunto – your pets must be able to fit in an airline compliant carrier that will fit under the seat in front of each passenger. Most airlines allow only one pet per passenger. The issue with Shih Tzu breeds is that they are snub-nosed and many airlines do not like to transport them in the cargo hold.

  43. Michaela – you will need to clear customs in Washington or New York and take a domestic flight to Dallas. You should allow a minimum of 2 hours to accomplish this if your dog is traveling in the cabin or as checked baggage.

  44. Hi! I’m going to fly sas from Norway to Dallas but will have to change airplane in Washington or New York! My dog will travel as hand luggage! How much time should I plan to have at the airport? Cause I think I have to declare my dog at costum when I arrive into United States, and not at my final destination that will be Dallas?

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