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 — 961 Comments

  1. Elizabeth – if you are flying in and out of Germany on the same airline, then your dog will transit the country. If your dog is flying in the cabin, you will wait in the secure area of the terminal until you board your next flight. If your dog is flying as accompanied checked baggage in the cargo hold, the layover should not be more than 3 hours.

  2. I’m moving to Salzburg Austria in December.
    I’m taking my 7lb min pin dog with me in cabin….I have paperwork together for Austrian regulations. My concern is that most flights from USA have layovers in Frankfurt, Germany. Does this layover require more documentation on my part so my dog can enter Germany to leave it from the airport??

    Thank you

  3. I’m planning to move to Salzburg, Austria in December. I’m taking my 7lb miniature Pinscher with me.
    Most flights I’m finding have destination planned as USA to Germany to Austria. Because these flights have a layover in Germany(mainly Frankfurt), do I need documenting for this entry??
    I have paperwork mostly prepared for Austrian customs. But with a layover in Germany. Do I need further documentation??
    Thank you!

  4. Iliana – you will need to provide documentation with the health certificate for Spain when checking in at Costa Rica and when clearing customs in Madrid. You will also need to provide the same documentation when checking in at your second airline in Spain and when clearing customs at Sophia. This assumes that you are changing airline companies in Madrid.

  5. Hi Phil,

    The doggy(4kg)will be traveling with us in the cabin – both our airlines allow it. And we have a layover in Madrid when changing the airlines.So the documents will be checked at the check-ins both times ?

  6. Iliana – you will present your pet’s documentation to your airline at check-in. Then you will also present it during customs clearance in Bulgaria. If you have a layover on your itinerary, then if you are changing airline companies, you will need to produce documentation to enter the layover country. If you are staying on the same airline, then the airline should transit your pet through the layover country unless the layover is very long and your pet is flying in the cargo hold.

  7. We are traveling with our dog back to Bulgaria from Costa Rica. Where do we present the documents we have – on the security checks ? Sorry for the stupid question.

  8. Janet – try to avoid London if you can. Your pup will need an agent to transit it through London and it will need to fly as air cargo which is more expensive than checked baggage. 16 pounds is borderline for in-cabin travel, but if your airline allows it, great. If your dog must fly in the cargo hold as checked baggage, it will need an IATA-compliant pet crate like these: The food and water bowls must attach to the door.

  9. Hoping to travel from Toronto to Nairobi Kenya via Heathrow with my bichon dog. Is there a weight limit for the dog? I do believe he is too big for cabin…. 16lbs …. although that would be much better!
    Please tell me what rules there are, about the size of cage, food, water etc.

  10. Mark – if your flight to Namibia is not on your itinerary with the flight out of Namibia, then you need to ask your airline what they are expecting. If you are only connecting with another flight in Namibia (not spending any time there) and can show them that SA is your origination country, then it should be OK, but best to confirm with the airlines.

  11. Hi there, I am flying with my dog in cabin from Namibia to JFK via Amsterdam on KLM. We are from South Africa, but as SA don’t allow dogs to travel in cabin, we first need to fly to Namibia on a local flight then on to the US. Do you know whether the USA will require health certificates etc from South Africa (where we are from) or from Namibia (our point of origin for the US flight)? Also, are our dog’s papers checked on entry into the US, or only by KLM staff when clearing customs in Namibia?

  12. Hello – you will not be able to pass TSA without a ticket and we know of no airline that will allow a spider to fly in the cabin.

  13. Am I allowed to bring a pet spider through tsa

  14. I always feel sad whenever my family go on a trip and leave our pet behind. I’m glad that there is chance that we can bring our pet dog with us on our next trip. Thanks for sharing this one. 🙂 Great article!

  15. ARR – you may want to consider Lufthansa out of New York to Sophia. You can fly domestically to a large east coast airport, then fly transatlantic to make the flight shorter.

  16. I am planning a trip from USA to Bulgaria. I have two small dogs – Yorkshire terriers they weight 5lbs each. 10lbs all together. They can not be separated. Can I fly with both of them in cabin? What’s the best international airline for transportation of animals?

  17. Shelly – your question would be better directed to airport security or customer service at the airport in which you will be going to.

  18. I am escorting an unaccompanied minor to the airport. Will I be allowed to bring my dog with me into the terminal? My dog has flown with me as an emotional support animal in the past.

  19. Larissa – no commercial airline flying domestically in the US publishes any information about allowing a fish to fly in the cabin that we are aware of. You may want to contact the airline(s) that serve your route and inquire.

  20. Can I bring my betta fish from Albany to Phoenix? I know I have to adhere to the 4oz rule and I have everything set up to do so. Just wondering if they will give me a hard time.

  21. Rose – You must obtain an Veterinary Quarantine Clearance to Import from the Bureau of Animal Industry in advance of your goldfishes’ arrival if it is permitted. This permit is good for 2 months. The permit must be applied for online or in person. We have no further information currently on the import of goldfish to the Philippines.

    Is it allowed to bring live fish i mean only 2 goldfish.
    Do have any requirements that is needed??

  23. Kate – if you are flying in and out of AMS on the same airline, then you should not need to clear customs in the Netherlands. In this case, you will need the EU Health Certificate for Italy completed within 10 days of travel by a USDA-accredited veterinarian and endorsed by the USDA. office in your State If you are changinig airline companies or spending time in the Netherlands, you will need the EU Health Certificate for the Netherlands completed within 10 days of travel by a USDA-accredited veterinarian and endorsed by the USDA. office in your State. This is a requirement to enter any EU country. (

  24. I am planning to bring my ESA dog (13lb chihuahua mix) with me from the US to Italy with a layover & customs in Amsterdam. Delta has already approved my request. I found online that I will need a USDA signed exam from an accredited Veterinarian here in the US in addition to all the other vaccination papers. Is this necessary for customs? Has anyone done this without an EU “Pet Passport”? The dog is microchipped, rabies vaccinated, spayed, distemper, bordatella etc. Any help would be appreciated!

  25. Susan – yes, they do. If the officials working the security checkpoint are not aware, ask to speak to a supervisor. The last thing anyone wants is a spooked animal running through the terminal. Allow extra time for this.

  26. Heather – your kitty can fly on a commercial airline as unaccompanied air cargo if she will not be allowed on your charter. You can contact the cargo department of an airline that flies your entire route. At 12 weeks, you should consider getting your kitty vaccinated for rabies.

  27. Nods – the UAE requires all animals to fly in and out of the country as air cargo. We would be surprised if this were allowed unless your pet is a service dog.

  28. I’m rescuing a cat from the DR. She’s about 12 weeks. Who vs. I speak with to get from the airport so I can get her approved to fly? Also if my airline does not approve her because it is s charter what do I need to do? I know she ll need a health certificate from a local vet regardless! Anybhelp is appreciated!

  29. I am flying to Bangkok from Beirut through Dubai. My bichon dog will be with me as carry on baggage. Will I have any problems transiting through the Dubai airport?

  30. Engela – unfortunately not. All commercial airlines that we know of require that live animals enter South Africa as air cargo. There are no facilities at the airports to handle the clearance of pets.

  31. Can I take my small dog, a Min Pin (5kg) in cabin with me from Dublin to Johannesburg OR TAMBO?

  32. You can make a reservation for your pet online with some airlines if it is flying in the cabin or as checked baggage. We always recommend calling to confirm. When you check in your pet at the airport, you or your representative need to be physically there. If it is flying as air cargo, you or your representative needs to complete an airway bill at the airline’s cargo facility.

  33. Can I check-in online with my pet or do i have to check-in physically at the desk when i get to the airport?

  34. In this time TSA does a great job to the security system. Their service is really well. I am traveling with my pet in the UK that time I saw their service and that was great. That moment I think they do their proper job. Thank for sharing this helpful post with us. Overall security is the most important to all the people, for security metal detector do a great job.

  35. Ruth – get to security with extra time before your departure. Ask the agent for a room where you can remove your kitty while the agent takes the backpack back to security for x-ray. If the agent does not cooperate, ask to speak to a supervisor. All airports have these types of rooms they can provide for screening. Better than a live animal running around the terminal.

  36. Hi,

    I move with my cat to Germany. the plan is to move from London Heathrow to Berlin Tegel with Lufthansa. stopover is in Munich or Frankfurt. I am very afraid of letting her out at security. I have kind of a small backpack I could take with me that is made for cats also. Do you think they will allow that if I scan the backpack first – then put the cat in there, then scan the carrier, then put the cat back? I have never flown with an animal so would appreciate any help I could get

  37. Raj – India requires that all pets enter the country either as checked baggage or cargo. Pets cannot enter in the cabin.

  38. Hattie – the need for a health certificate is based on your airline’s pet policies and the class of service your dog is traveling under. If it is traveling unaccompanied, then a vet check will be required within 10 days of flying. Other airlines require vet checks for pets flying as accompanied checked baggage. Few do for in-cab pets, but there are those that do. You can check your airline’s pet policy here:

  39. Can i carry a pair of rabbits wid me in airplane from bangladesh to kolkata nd from kolkata to india as iam an indian citizen..and are there any taxes i hve to pay…

  40. Elsie – we cannot answer your question as we do not know what country your Shih Tzu is traveling from and what country it is traveling to.


  42. Helena – arrive at the security checkpoint early. Tell the TSA employee that you will need a room to take your cat out of the carrier. If they do not accommodate you, ask to speak to a supervisor. Every airport should be able to accommodate you. They do not want a cat running through the terminal.

  43. Hi, thank you for the helpful article! Quick question: how/where/when can I request a room for TSA? One of my cats in very anxious and tends to scratch and fight if he has to be placed in his carrier. I am moving cross country and am worried about this! Being able to have a room would put my mind at ease. Thanks!

  44. Karyn – small amounts of dog food in sealed containers may be accepted. You may want to contact the Border Inspection Post at the airport in which you are entering. We do not see Nice listed as an approved BIP.

  45. Please tell me if I can bring my dogs dry food through security. He is in cabin with us, Chicago-Munich-Nice. Thank you!

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