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 — 959 Comments

  1. Hello … I have to Yorkshire Terriers, and I will travel with them from Caracas (Venezuela) to Miami, I am currently doing the paperwork for them to travel (health certificates), but my doubt is the following: that same day I have to travel from Miami to SLC, and my question is, if I clear customs when I arrive from Venezuela with my dogs and I check in to the local flight , are my dogs going to need a new health certificate? or with the USDA approval would be enough?

  2. Cherish – TSA’s job is not to check health certificates. We cannot find any indication that Delta will need a health certificate on a domestic flight (very few airlines do). Although it is not a bad idea to travel with a health certificate, in your case, it should not be required.

  3. I am moving across country and plan on bringing my cat via carry on. I am flying from Orlando, FL to Tucson, AZ on Delta airlines. I am confused about the health certificate pet records, Delta says they recommend that I have them on hand incase TSA needs them and I called TSA and they said they don’t ask for papers, unless the airline needs them. My cat is an indoor cat and has not been to a vet for anything in over 3 years. I hate to spend the money on something that is going to be a waste. I am wondering is anyone else has flown from state to state and needed these papers?

  4. Amal – you will need to contact the cargo department of an airline that flies your entire route as chickens are transported as air cargo. We do not know of any commercial airline that will allow it in the cabin.

  5. Lisa – you clear customs with your pet if it is traveling with you in the cabin. If traveling as checked baggage, you claim it when you claim your luggage and proceed to customs. Officials will want to see a current rabies certificate and a screwworm certificate if you are entering from certain countries. (more here: Unless there is an obvious health issue, it should be a quick process.

  6. Hi,
    I would like to know how I can transport my pet chicken with me if I do travel to the states.. It would have a vaccination book and would be microchipped, would any airline allow pet chickens to travel with me?

  7. Does anyone have any experience they can describe for me as someone who is bringing a small dog into the U.S.? I only really want to know what happens from the moment the plane lands into the first port-of-entry to the point that you walk out the airport door. Also, how the immigration and customs officials acted would be helpful too.

  8. Paulina – you cat needs to be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier. As long as this an happen and your cat conforms to weight restrictions if you are traveling internationally, you should be fine.

  9. Hello, I will be traveling from London Heathrow to Poland by Lot Airlines with a cat in the cabin. Allowed carrier dimensions are 20, 45, 30cm, my cat is rather large (15, 35, 25 cm) and I am worried whether I may have any problems with taking her on the plane?

  10. Sarah – we assume that you mean “and then a few days later fly with the cat to Monterrey.” The plan is feasible, however you need to give your Mother Power of Attorney to claim your cat in the US and also to enter Mexico with it. The health certificate required for your cat to enter Mexico will expire within 10 days of issuance by your vet in Dakar, so you will want to enter Mexico before that happens. (requirements to enter Mexico here:

  11. I’d like to bring my cat from Dakar, Senegal to the USA and then on to our new home in Monterrey, Mexico. I will be driving to Monterrey and my mom – who is not a cat person – will receive the cat off the plane from Dakar and then a few days later fly with the car to Monterrey. Is this plan feasible?

  12. Natalie – in order to change airlines in Germany, you will need to have your cat microchipped, then vaccinated for rabies (in that order, but same vet visit is fine). The vaccination must be administered no sooner than 21 days before travel. (don’t count the day of the vet visit). Have your vet get an EU Pet Passport for your cat and record the details of the microchip and rabies vaccination. Not sure that 1.5 hours is enough time to clear customs and catch your next flight, though.

  13. Cynthia – we are not familiar with your carrier, but would comment that your pet must be able to fit entirely in the carrier and stand up and turn around comfortably. The carrier must be secure and offer proper ventilation. As for the medication, your vet can address that question. We will say that natural calmers should not interfere with your pet’s ability to walk. As for the pet relief area inside of the security line, there are airports that have installed these,but we don’t recall ATL as one of them. Depending on the traffic in the airport, you should be able to get outside with your pet in a 2 hour timeframe.

  14. Hi-I am a U.S. citizen currently living in Bulgaria. I have rescued a cat in Bulgaria that I am planning to take back to the States with me when I return in July. I am having a lot of trouble navigating all of the different regulations surrounding pet travel. Right now I am looking at a return flight that includes flying Bulgaria Air from Bulgaria to Germany, then airberlin from Germany to the States (from the information I found online, it seems as if both airlines allow pets in the cabin). Do you know what documentation I need to ensure that all travel goes smoothly? Are there any special security procedures that would require me to have a long layover in Germany when I switch from Bulgaria Air to airberlin? Or are the security procedures the same as switching flights without a pet? (The itinerary I’m looking at only has a 1.5 hr layover, so I want to make sure that’s enough time)

  15. I am going from Atlanta, GA to Indianapolis, IN with a 16 lb. miniature schnauzer in a week. He is updated on all vaccinations as of a few months ago and is microchipped. He will, of course, be in cabin with me. This is my first time traveling with a dog, so I have a few questions for which I have found various and sundry answers and I really just need the real scoop:

    1. I bought an
    OxGord Airline Approved Pet Carriers w/ Fleece Bed For Dog & Cat – Large, Soft Sided Kennel, which purportedly is TSA approved. Anyone have any issues with these?

    2. The Southwest agent I spoke to claims no vaccine record is required at time of check-in or going through Security. Now I am reading that they are required and a certificate of health is required within 10 days of departure. All this is no problem, but I just need to know.

    3. My vet is giving me medication for the dog and says it lasts about 5-6 hours. If it takes 35 minutes to get to the park and fly, 10 minutes to get to the airport and then a process of 2 hours before finally boarding (including the security stint), when should I give my dog his medication to ensure that he is less hyper than his usual “still kind of a puppy Schnauzer” self?

    4. Wow, is it even possible to get through the Atlanta security (with a dog, no less) AND visit the doggie relief area in a 2-hour time span? I am reading that their area is outside the ground transport doors. Right. Then you have to get through security, get on a tram, and get to your gate.

    5. When you give the dog those meds, and then have to take them out of their carrier with their collar and leash off, do they stay pretty calm? I have no idea what my dog will do, to be honest, though he is usually pretty good. Hence my question regarding when to give the meds.

    6. And exactly how long does that whole process take?

    7. Are there relief areas (or somewhere to let your dog go outside for a breather) once you get through Security and are actually in a terminal?

    Okay, I think that just about covers it. Obviously, time is somewhat of a factor here since I leave in 8 days, so it would be great if someone could answer my question rather quickly. Thank you!

  16. Signe – unless the airport has lockers large enough to accommodate your pet carrier, then we cannot imagine there is a way to store your pet carrier there.

  17. Is there any way that you can store the pet carrier in the airport, while you are staying in the country?

  18. Im Luis mi going from Florida to cuba with my dog im wondering if the AirPort in cuba is going to let me bring my dog back with me or if they are going to make me leave my dog over there im veeeeeerrrryyyy woried

  19. Lynda – you will be flying back to Germany with your dog, right? Your dog must have a current rabies vaccination administered after a 15 digit ISO microchip is implanted and more than 21 days before entering Germany. Within 10 days of travel, a USDA-accredited veterinarian must complete the Annex IV form for Germany for endorsement by your State USDA office. Being 100 pounds, your dog likely (but not necessarily) need to travel as air cargo. Find an airline the flies the entire route and contact their reservation number and ask what the maximum weight allowance is for checked baggage. If your dog exceeds that amount, it will need to travel as air cargo. You can find requirements to import your dog to Germany here with links to instructions and forms if you need them:

  20. Oh, man! I am totally confused. I live in Germany and I will be flying back to Chicago to pick up my 100 pound dog. I can’t seem to find any one source for complete and detailed information and I keep getting conflicting info from different sources. I have not yet booked our flights. Has anyone flown from the US to Germany with a large dog who will be in cargo? I really need a mentor! THANK YOU!

  21. Frank – if you fly in and out of Poland on the same airline, then your pet should not need to clear customs unless the layover is very long and your pet is traveling in the cargo hold.

  22. Maximo – we do not have regulations to import chickens to the Philippines. You can try the Bureau of Animal Industry – National Veterinary Quarantine Service.

  23. I am planning on transporting a pup from the Netherlands to the United States with a connecting flight in Poland. Since the Netherlands is considered to be a “rabies free” country, will I have to follow the rules as dictated by Poland? Or since I am the same airline in the same airport on my connecting flight, will I have to go through their customs/health inspection?


  25. Donna – we are not aware of any exceptions to Mexico’s rabies vaccination requirement. You may want to contact the Mexican Embassy and inquire.

  26. We will be traveling to Mexico with our Boxer who is my emotional support dog. She has remediated auto-immune disease and can not be vaccinated. What do I need to do so she can go to Mexico with me?

  27. Hi Rene – it totally depends on what country you are traveling to Massachusetts from. If it is a domestic flight, then your cat will be allowed to fly as long as it is old enough. All that said, technically, your pet is not protected from rabies until 21 days after the first vaccination.

  28. I will travel with a cat to Massachusetts soon. She had het vaccinations and rabies shot. How old should the rabies vaccination be, before she can fly? is two weeks enough or shoud it be 21 days after the rabies shot?

  29. If I’m bringing a 2 months old puppie miniature dauschound from Texas I don’t need rabies the puppie can travel with me and just the health record is that right ?

  30. Vinee – your dog will need proof of rabies vaccination administered no sooner than 30 days of entry, a health certificate issued in English within 10 days of entry and a screwworm inspection. A licensed veterinarian can help you with all these requirements. No quarantine if they are all met. If your dog is traveling with your parents, it can travel as checked baggage. Get its crate early and get it accustomed to being in it. Get the best crate you can find (like these: and attach the top and bottom with metal hardware. It is important to keep your pet safe when traveling.More tips here: Find an airline that flies the entire route. Do not change airlines along the way.

  31. Earlier comment – contd:

    We are closer to Atlanta, so the arrival will be at the Atlanta airport.

  32. Dear Admin – I am trying to get my 7 year old female Labrador into the U.S. From India. She does have hormonal imbalances but otherwise in good health. My parents will be coming along with her…. Will there be a quarantine? Other than shots and vaccinations and her very recent health certificate what else is expected? This is the first time and I am finding it extremely difficult to get appropriate information – we have a urgent need for my parents to be here and are trying best to big our dog as well. Any help, suggestion, information, guidance will be HUGE blessing. Thanks in advance.

  33. Maria – no quarantine for your bunny when entering the US. It should have a health certificate issued shortly prior to travel. Will need to research airlines and will update the post. Where are you flying from in Denmark?

  34. Hi!
    I love your site as it has helped a lot. I’m moving in a year to Oregon,USA from Denmark with my rabbit in cabin. DO you know any airlines that will allow my bunny with my to USA in cabin? Also do you know anything about the quarantine in USA? As far as i know there is non when it comes to rabbits, but i just want to be 100% sure. I’ve mailed Delta and they said no, still waiting for united airlines…
    Thank you so much.

  35. 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 πŸ™ 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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 ?

  40. 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…

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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 *