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 — 967 Comments

  1. Hi, I plan on traveling with a French bulldog thats a puppy. He’s about 5 months but looks like he’s 2(super tiny). He got his rabies 3 weeks ago. I’m flying from Monterrey Mexico to Texas. I’m just afraid that TSA will quarantine him because he is so small for the breed he is. Is there certain things they look at besides the vaccinations? Like do they determine the dog by size ?

  2. Gabriela – you will claim your baggage and clear customs with your pet when arriving in Germany assuming you are flying in and out of Amsterdam on the same airline. As long as you have conformed to German regulations, there should be no problems entering Germany. You can find them here: Note that Brazil is considered a high-rabies country by the EU so the titer test in step #3 will be required.

  3. Hi,

    I plan on traveling with 12 weeks old puppy to China for one week. Do you know what documentation and shots are necessary? Is there quarantine period?

  4. Hi everyone! I’m traveling with KLM and I will carry my cat in the cabin with me, from São Paulo (Brazil) to Hanover (Germany) with a connection flight in Amsterdam. I already checked all the informations about bringing an animal to EU, especially because the animal is from a non-EU country. It’ll be my first time traveling with an animal, and my question is regard to how it works after arriving in the first country in EU, where should I take the animal for the Veterinary Border Inspection to show all the documents, and do I need do declare the animal at customs? I’ve talked to other people who brought animals in the cabin from Brazil to the EU, and they said it was the same as traveling alone, just passing through immigration, baggage reclaim and then customs in the non-declare line. But I am afraid of doing something wrong or forgetting about something during the process. Thanks in advance for your help! Gabriela

  5. hi Ram – as long as you can prove that your Dachshund has resided in Belgium for at least 6 months, then she is considered as being from that country. If entering from Belgium, then the test is not required. As for your second question, we cannot predict how extensively veterinary officials will inspect your pup, but it will likely not be an issue if your pet is visibly healthy and has no ticks or fleas.

  6. Hi I’m travelling with my pet from Belgium to Dubai on residence visa. She is a 11 months Dachshund (Teckle), but was born in Slovakia. She is micro chipped and carries her Europeon passport with updated vaccinations. I also obtained the Import Permit for her.
    I have two questions:
    1. I want to know if she needs Rabies Serum Neutralization test, as I’m bit puzzled about certain countries where the pets have to go through this test. (She was born in Slovakia, but travelling from Belgium)
    2. What’d be the approximate time taken for the inspection process to complete? How do they treat when my pet is cranky during that time?

  7. Hi Natasha – you will claim your luggage and proceed to customs where your cat will be cleared during the process. We are not aware of a fast track lane but will say that the US is pretty cat friendly and it is doubtful that your cat will hold up the clearance process.

  8. Hi Susan,

    I ‘ll be flying from Turkey with my cat (in cabin) to new york next week.
    might be a silly question but-is there a fast track line where you go if you have a pet? (she gets super stressed while traveling)
    Also, I want to know what happens after passport check?So I go with my cat through the passport control first? and then Is there a separate place I go to before luggage claim? Or is the TSA inspection after the luggage claim? Thank you!

  9. Judith – you should have enough time to clear customs unless your flight is delayed entering JFK or the customs is incredibly busy at the time you land. Check with your airline and inquire as to how far in advance your pup must be checked on the flight from JFK to SEA.

  10. Herna – as long as you have proof of rabies vaccination at least 30 days in advance and a current health certificate, that should be all that is necessary. If you are flying in and out of Doha on the same airline and, if your layover is not over 3 hours, then your airline should transit your dog.

  11. Hi.. I’m an Indian and taking my 1 year old dog from belize to chennai through miami and doha. Am changing airlines in miami. So what are the procedures they do in miami. My dog is vaccinated for rabies in 4th month itself. I have health certificate, microchip. whatelse i need? Next month i’m leaving. Do they check my dog in miami and doha?

  12. I am traveling with pup from France, to JFK to SEA. I have a 2.5 hour layover in JFK. I believe I have to pick up pup, go through customs, then turn around and check back in with pup. Is this going to be difficult and will I have enough time?

  13. Vanessa – officials in the US will be fine with the health certificate. Best to check with your airlines to see what their requirements are. It is very appropriate for you to tape your contact information (cell phone number included) on the top of his crate together with his name and the last time he was fed. Not a bad idea to include a statement like “Please check water” if you are laying over anywhere along the way.

  14. Hi Susan,
    I am travelling with my cat from Dubai to New York in a few days, is it ok if the health certificate was done 3 weeks ago? How recent does it have to be? He will be travelling as checked bagage, he had his rabies vaccination last month and has a microchip… Do we need to put our address/contact number with him in the cage?

    Thank you so much !

  15. ?? I am planning a trip from Jacksonville Florida,US to Bangkok Thailand and I want to take my 80 pound pitbull who is also a service dog can anyone give me some advice on the best way to handle this and what documentation I Will need..?

  16. Helen – Israel does not require that your dog enter the country as checked baggage or air cargo, so if your airline’s pet policy permits it, then great! As for walking your pet in the airport on a leash, you need to check with the airport. Most airports only allow service or emotional support animals to be out of the carrier while inside the airport.

  17. Hi, I am traveling form LAX to Israel in El Al airline, I already dot approved to have my small dog with me in the cabin, I was told i can just walk her in the airport on a leash, I wanted to make sure I got the right information, is it a yes or no? thanks

  18. Revital – are your dogs traveling as checked baggage or air cargo? The crate sizes sound excessive for checked baggage, but, if they are, request a luggage cart to move them from baggage claim to customs clearance. If they are flying as air cargo, you will claim them from your airline’s cargo facility and take their papers to customs clearance.

  19. Hi, We are arriving from Tel Aviv to LAX. 3 big dogs (relocation to the USA). we have one giant kennel and 2 XL Kennel. What do we do in LAX? is the vet office is near the luggage pick up point? We don’t understand the process of taking the dogs out from the airport….can anyone help? (I have a health certificate for each and letter from Vet in English declaring they have received rabies 3.5 months ago

  20. Debra – you will clear customs with your pet after claiming your luggage. You should carry a rabies certificate proving current rabies vaccination. It is not possible to estimate the time it will take to clear customs as it depends on the amount of traffic requiring service at the time you clear.

  21. Hello, I`m traveling Aug 16th 2016 from Egypt with a short layover in Germany then to Toronto arriving in Toronto at 7 pm with my dog in cabin with me. I`m wondering what my procedure will be once I exit the plane I assume I go thru the normal Immigration/customs check for myself first then what happens? Do I have to go to some other point for my dog to be checked and what papers should I have for her besides that she has had all shots up to date including her rabies shot she is a year old and approx how long can I expect this to take? I don`t want to keep my person picking me up waiting. So if I had a approx time frame how long this would take I can give a proper time to pick me up. Thank you for your help in advance.Debra

  22. Ladan – no microchip required to leave Mexico or to enter the US. You will need to travel with proof of current rabies vaccination. If your pet is not currently vaccinated, then you need to have it vaccinated for rabies and wait for 30 days before entering the US. If your pet’s rabies vaccination is current and it just needs a booster, then you do not need to wait after the booster is given.

  23. I would like to bring a chihuahua from Mexico to New York! What type of paperwork or shots do I need for the dog? And do I need to microchip the dog prior to departure?

  24. Hey. Im flying with my dog from tel aviv to the US through Germany, stopping there just for connection flight so just two hours stop there. Do I need an EU health certificate for my dog or is the US health certificate is enough?

  25. Hi do you have any specific information for me regarding talking a puppy from South Africa to Liberia. Also, how many pups can one carry as I am to bring another 2 for some friends o I will carry 3 pups in total.


  26. Estela – the EU is one of the most pet friendly places on earth. We cannot imagine that this option would not be available. Just remember to escalate if you need to.
    Also, keep your cat leashed and have the excess hang out from the carrier. Anytime you open the carrier, have the leash in hand. Susan

  27. Thank you so much, Susan. That makes me feel a lot better. My cat is normally quite calm, but in all that commotion he gets nervous. And I read a horrible story about a woman whose cat escaped into the airport at a security check and was found a week later, having died of thirst. I’m traveling from Europe to the US, with a stop in Belgium. Do you know if European airports have this security check option as well?

  28. Estela – yes, you have the right to request a screening room. If the TSA officer refuses, ask to speak to a supervisor. Do not stop until they provide means for you to take your cat out of its carrier in a confined space so they can x-ray the carrier. Leave extra time to do this, of course.

  29. Do I have the right, as a person traveling with a pet, to request a room? I have had very negative experiences with security personnel and long lines, having to hold my cat in my arms for unnecessarily long periods because they refused to assist me in passing through or even questioned me in an aggressive manner as my pet grew increasingly nervous. Other problems included being asked to remove his leash and collar so it wouldn’t set off the metal detector. Can you please tell me if there is grounds to demand a room inspection?

  30. Carsten – your dog will be kept in a holding area until it is time to load him. He should be the last to load and the first to offload when you reach AMS. Be sure and confirm that he is scheduled for the flight before you board.

  31. Hi- I am traveling from IAD to Amsterdam and will have my dog checked as baggage. He is still do big to travel in the cabin. I was wondering if anybody knows what happens with him after checking in?

  32. Wonderful website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get suggestions from other
    knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

  33. Hi Eric – it is not as expensive to return to Cyprus as it is to enter the UK as there is not a requirement of the commercial airlines that pets travel as air cargo. Swiss Air and Air Canada both fly pets out of the UK in the cabin or as checked baggage. There could be others as well. Using this class of service is less expensive. Also, there is not an agent requirement either. As long as your pet has a current rabies vaccination administered after the microchip is implanted and an EU Pet Passport, no further paperwork is required unless your airline requires a health certificate.

  34. Hi I brought my Jack Russell from Cyprus to UK two years ago. I’m now returning. Can I use all the same paperwork and avoid very expensive fees?

  35. Hi Mary – your pet should be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier. Enforcement of this rule depends on the gate attendant who checks you in. A medium carrier does sound a bit small for a 16 lb dog and there are larger pet carriers available. You can call Air France and find out how much room there is under the seat in front of you. That will give you a good idea whether you can up the size of the carrier. Air France requires that you recheck your pet on every leg of your flight (to collect another pet fee). As for customs clearance at EWR, you will claim your baggage and clear customs with your pet at the international terminal.

  36. Mary- i’m planing to travel to egypt next july. I booked with air france, i plan to take my 16 lb maltese dog. I got a medium pet carrier measuring 46cm/25cm/28cm but my dog is a little bit taller than that, in many pet stores and online i was told to measure my dog from the floor to his shoulder because he is supposed to lay down or sit in the carrier. He could turn in the carrier but it is not too much wide for him. There will be any problem in this?I will have a connection in CDG for about three hours. My pet should be checked there also?
    In addition, this is the first time for me traveling with a pet, what will be the steps to check in here in the EWR airport?

  37. Samantha – it would depend on what type of carrier you have, but they are certainly great for affording extra space for your pet while “squishing” down to fit under the seat in front of you. Your cat falls within the general weight restriction that the airlines have although you will want a light carrier so the total weight does not exceed 8kg (this varies by airline). Saudia does not specify a weight, but recommends that carriers not exceed 52.5 cm x 32.5 cm x 40 cm or (21 in x 13 x 16 in).

  38. Hi Mario – the issue will be finding a pet carrier that will accommodate your dog’s length and satisfy airline requirements to be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier. SturdiBag makes an XL bag that may accommodate your pet (, but it will need to fit crosswise under the seat in front of you, so you will need to have enough width to work with. You can contact your airline and ask them how much room there is under the seat on the aircraft that flies your specific route.

  39. Will a soft-sided carrier fit under the airplane seat? I have a 4 kg cat so will she be allowed to be in cabin? We are going from Saudi Arabia to Philippines with Saudia Airlines

  40. Hello,

    I am travelling from Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam to Rome Italy next July and I’m trying to arrange for my dog to travel with me.
    I went to a Turkish Airlines office today and I was told that I can bring my dog with me in the cabin as hand luggage.
    The only specification they made is that the dog and it’s container must weigh under 8kg. They were not concerned about the dog’s size.

    As my dog weighs only 6 kg, she satisfies the weight requirement.
    However she is 15.7 inches in height and 22 inches in length, which is a little larger than the size limit you mention on your website regarding travelling with a dog in the cabin.

    Do you think I will have a problem? I would very much prefer to be able to take my dog with me in the cabin.

    Thanks for your help.

  41. Always best to travel in the cabin with you unless you feel your cat will not adapt well to being in the carrier for the duration of the flight. She would ave to fly in a carrier similar to these: As for TSA screening, ask for a private room so if she attempts to escape, she will be in the confines of a room. Allow extra time for the provision of this.

  42. I am moving from Honolulu HI to Seattle. I am getting a direct flight. Am I better off having my cat fly in cargo or under the seat? She does NOT like the carrier and I am afraid she will escape when I have to take her out at the TSA security checkpoint. Also what is the best softsided carrier for under the seat, she’s about 15 pounds. I have a hard sided one if she goes cargo. Will be either Delta, Alaska or Hawaiian airlines. Thanks

  43. Hi I have a 1year old maltese terrier. I’m in Istanbul. If I fly home to London Heathrow will my dog have to go into quarantine? What paperwork do I need to show? He will be travelling in I need to buy him a ticket to fly too? Example..If I booked flight 1st September for UK…when should I start my dogs rabies vaccine and getting paperwork in order. End
    of May?

  44. Mila – you will not need another health certificate for the next leg of your flight unless the airline will require it. If this is the case, then the health certificate you used to clear customs in MIA will be fine.

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