Pet Travel: How to Clear Airport Security with a Pet

Clearing airport security with a pet
iStock Photo

You 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 I clear airport security with my pet? 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 ahead of time.

The first thing pet owners should know is that TSA does not administer airline pet policies for pets flying in the cabin of an aircraft. 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.” TSA responsibilities include providing security and protection of travelers across all transportation sectors through the operation of various screening equipment and technology which identifies dangerous objects in baggage, cargo and/or on passengers, and preventing those objects from being transported onto the aircraft.

Procedure for screening live animals

According to 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.”

Do NOT try to leave your pet in its carrier when presenting it to the x-ray machine. This scan is not intended for live animals but for passenger carry-on luggage and personal property only.

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, either by carrying it or leashing it. After clearing the detector, the security officer may swab your hands to detect any traces of explosive devices.

Do NOT try to leave your pet in its carrier when presenting it to the x-ray machine. This scan is not intended for live animals but for passenger carry-on luggage and personal property only.

Airports can be busy places and intimidating to your pet. Pet owners should understand the temperament of their pet as it is important to keep it under your control at all times. If you are traveling with a pet who is high spirited or scares easily, you can request a screening 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 request.

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.

Airports require that all pets remain in their carriers while inside the building with the exception of service dogs. If you are traveling with a service dog, be sure that training material is available and your dog is appropriately marked as a service dog. Avoid any contact with working or therapy dogs that oftentimes are seen throughout the airport.

Be on the lookout for working or therapy dogs who can be anywhere in an airport. As airports are high activity areas, it is best to have your pet contained and not to disturb or distract these working dogs.

Do a bit of research ahead of travel on pet relief areas in your airport so you can offer this opportunity for your pet ahead of boarding. All major airports are required to have pet relief areas past security check points.

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 how your cleared security checkpoints with your pet. 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 — 985 Comments

  1. Hello, we have a Male Dachshund who is almost 3. We will be flying from Dumaguete city Philippines to LAX, via Manila, a 9 hour layover there.
    Our trip will be for 4 to 6 months. I’m American but wife is a Philippino. Will going through customs/immigration be an issue? Will they ask why we’re bringing him, as she’s not a citizen? Do big airports have a place for them to pee or poop?

  2. I am taking my cat from San Jose, Costa Rica to Phoenix, AZ, in August. The information you have given seems very useful and complete. Especially the separate room, because she is a one person cat, and that is me.
    Thank you,

  3. This is very useful! I think the mess of booking pet-friendly travel and ensuring everything is okay with the airline and airport, we forget how much of a hassle security can be. I really appreciate this info.

  4. MK – your puppy (under 3 months of age) should have a current health certificate. No issues when entering the US from Finland.

  5. Has anyone taken a puppy from Finland to the US? what do you expect, what should you expect? Flying in cabin with me.

  6. Patricia – the procedures that you list in your post are security procedures and we cannot guarantee that it will go as you have cited; however, this is generally how things happen when passing through security at an airport wih a pet.

  7. Hello
    I’m planning on taking my cat from Manchester, UK to Portugal later this month. I have cleared it with the airline.
    If I understand your post correctly what I do when I get to the airport is:
    – got to the airline check-in
    – proceed to normal security lanes with the cat in its carrier and the guards there will ask me to remove the cat from carrier.
    – carrier goes in the scan machine
    – cat goes on my lap through scan machine
    proceed to gate
    Can you confirm?
    Many thanks for your help

  8. Sama – Saudia is not an approved airline to fly live animals into the United Kingdom. Also, no commercial airline will permit a live animal to fly to the UK under any other class of service than air cargo unless they are trained service animals or ESAs coming directly from the United States. To avoid thisrestriction, you can fly to Paris and take a pet friendly ferry or Le Shuttle to the UK. All options from France other than DFDS from Dieppe will require that you and your cat travel in a vehicle. You can also fly to Amsterdam and take DFDS Ferry to New Castle as they will accept foot traffic.

    If you must fly into the UK, Lufthansa will fly your cat as air cargo as long as temperatures remain under 27 degrees C. Fortunately, Lufthansa’s flight departs at 2AM and temps may be lower at this time.

  9. Hello there. I plan on traveling with my Persian cat from Saudi Arabia (Jeddah) to the UK (London). I know Saudia allows pet in-cabin; but, I am not sure they do so on this route. I don’t want my cat to be in cargo, since he is snub-nosed and gets anxious easily. What would you recommend?

  10. Lyn – Saudia will allow cats in the cabin; however, we do not believe that one passenger can bring on two cats. Contact the airline to make reservations and ask them whether you can purchase another seat to take the second cat in the cabin. If the cats are small enough (kittens) they may be allowed in one carrier.

  11. I will travel with my two street cats next month from bisha saudi arabia to philippines.i have domestic flight from bisha to riyadh then have to wait in riyadh for a couple of hours before the international flight to philippines thru saudia concern is that will my two cats be with me in the cabin(underneath my seat) or i really need to put them in cargo hold?

  12. Evelina – you can request a room at security to remove your cat from the carrier. Generally, security regulations dictate that live animals should be removed from carriers before sending the carrier through x-ray. If you are not comfortable handling the cat, then it should fly as checked baggage in a crate.

  13. I rescued a dying srtreetcat from Cyprus. When we should go through the Xray on the Airport they let the cat staying in the Sherpa-bag and go through the Xray. When we should change aeroplane att Warszawa Airport I should go through Xray again. But there I hade To lift the cat out from the jag. The cat got panic and runt away om the Airport. But luckely they got her and we came then To Sweden. Is it safer to Travel with rescued Cats in the Cargo next time? What about if the custom Will take Them out for control and another cat Will escape? And women of THE rescued Cats van not be handled att all in such a situation- they Will bite.

  14. Yes, you can. If you are looking to fly your dog in the cabin out of the UK, then several airlines will accept it. Lufthansa and Swiss Air are two of them. You may need to fly out of Heathrow as opposed to a smaller UK airport.

  15. Do you have any recommendations for how I can get two 8 week old whippet puppies through security by myself? Will I be able to hold one in each arm or would you recommend requesting the screening room?

    They fit in a large Sherpa bag (which fits under the seat) but I am concerned someone could argue they do not have enough room. They do, really, since they are littermates and spend all their time cuddled together and climbing over each other. I am very worried about it but don?t really have a choice as I am delivering one to his new owner.

  16. Ray – thank you for this information! We appreciate it and so will those with service dogs.

  17. I am a disabled veteran and during my training with my service dog I got with my dog trainer and asked about screening at the airports . We found that Alaska Airlines has a training program specificily for service dogs and it is free, all you have to do is contact the Community Affairs Mgr to find out the details . IT IS A 4 HR class and very informative. Ive been in aviation for over50 yrs and I learned a lot from this class.

  18. Kyoto – you can ask for a room in order to get your cat out of the carrier. TSA will require that the carrier be x-rayed and not a good idea to have the cat in the carrier. keep a short leash on the cat so you can hold it when you open the carrier. Bring a small blanket or towel with you and wrap the cat in it. You may also consider a cat calmer which may make it easier to handle your cat. You can find them here: Try it at home first.

  19. Hi, I have a rescued cat that I cannot lift up or hold. I will have to move from CA to Texas and driving is not an option. After I read about what needs to be done at the airport, TSA, I feel hopeless. There is no way I can hold him and get him back to the carrier.
    I am planning to get my mobile vet come over and put him in to the carrier when I go to the airport. But, after that…I don’t know what to do. Please advise, what should I do…?

  20. Bradford – all airlines require that non-ESA or service animals fly in the cabin in a compliant carrier, not a crate. (crates are for cargo travel). The carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Twenty pounds is a bit on the large side; however, if your Boston Terrier can fit comfortably in an airline-compliant carrier, then you will remove your Terrier from the carrier and hold it or leash it while you walk together through the scanner. Know that most airlines will not fly this breed in the cargo hold.

  21. I have a Boston Terrier, and his crate is too big to fit through the x-ray machine. He’s small enough to be in cabin with me, but do I HAVE to check him? Or can he go with me through security without a crate, since he’s a 20lb dog?

  22. Veronique – your cat will need a health certificate issued within 14 days of travel to enter Egypt. Your cat should have rabies certificates proving current rabies vaccination no sooner than 30 days before entering Egypt.(Regulations are here: The certificate is be issued by the veterinarian who administered the vaccine. If the most current vaccination was recorded in the EU Pet Passport, all relevant information should be included (batch #, manufacturer, vaccination date administered and expired, etc.).

  23. Jessica – A health certificate is not required when flying Frontier domestically within the United States. If you have one, the agent at check in may review it. Be sure and acclimate your cats to their carriers ahead of travel. Here are some tips: You can also find lots of information about flying with a pet here: If your cats are of a nervous nature, you may consider a cat calmer. (

  24. I leave in Jerusalem and would like to take a plane from Amman to Cairo with my cat.
    My cat has an European passport and health certificate from Isra?l.
    Will it be problematic ? Does it needs papers from Jordan ?
    Thank you

  25. Hello, I’m flying (with a friend) with my 2 cats, age 10 and 12, from Denver to Washington DC. I’m so nervous! Frontier Airlines don’t require a health certificate but they recommend one. Who, along the way, may ask to see this certificate? Is it safe to fly with the cats without this certificate? Thank you.

  26. Will any shots besides rabies be required for in cabin travel with chihuahua from Missouri to California?

  27. Jacqueline – nost US-based commercial airlines do not require a health certificate for dogs and cats flying in the cabin, especially 10 days before flying. This requirement can apply to checked baggage and air cargo, however. You can find airline pet policies here: American, Alaska and Delta will not require a health certificate.

  28. I will be flying with a chihuahua in the cabin from Springfield, Mo or Branson,MO to Sacramento,CA in early September. This will follow a 2 week road trip. Thus I cannot have a 10 day old health certificate. Will that be needed?

  29. Julie – you do not mention what country your puppies are originating from. If it is any EU Member State, they can be imported without rabies certificates; however, at 12 weeks of age, they should be vaccinated for rabies as the US is not a rabies-free country. When you arrive, you will claim your pups at baggage claim, if they are flying in the cargo hold. If they are flying in the cabin, then you will proceed to baggage claim and clear customs with them. You should not have a problem if you are importing them as the owner and their transport is not for purposes of sale in wholesale channels, at retail, and for adoption after arrival in the United States, as well as importing them for other purposes involving transfer of ownership or control of the dog to another person for more than de minimis consideration after the dog’s arrival in the United States. Puppies and dogs entering the United States intended for resale* or adoption must be 6 months of age and may not enter the United States from any country until fully vaccinated (rabies and distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza virus (DHLPP) and accompanied with an import permit.

  30. Hi I?m flying Frankfurt to Denver with lufthansa air. My concern is I?ll be bring 3 French bull dog pups with me (12 weeks old) what. Process is involved when going through customs and the airport in general? We have shot and vet records of health! Microchips and pups will be in an approved travel size crate for cargo.

  31. Jennifer – Delta and American will not allow it? Are you speaking with their cargo department? This is a domestic flight, so an agent should not be required.

  32. Mic – a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel will satisfy any airline. As it appears from your post that you will remain on LOT both in and out of LIS, you and your kitty will wait in the secure area of the airport until you board your next flight. We don’t have offices in Morocco; however, in the States, we remove the pet from the carrier and walk through the screening machine with it. The carrier will need to be xrayed and best not to have the cat in the carrier at the time unless local practice requires it. Be sure and acclimate your pet to its carrier before traveling and layer several pet pads in the carrier.

  33. Does anyone have an idea on how to get our 2 Holland Lop bunny rabbits from Denver, Colorado to Kona, Hawaii? I have called all the airlines and no one will allow them in the cabin or as cargo.

  34. Hi there,

    I’m flying with Air Portugal from Morocco (3 hour layover in Lisbon) to Boston Logan Airport. I have a cat with me, he is considered a carry on. I’m very nervous and have never done this before, so I don’t really know what to expect. I have his vaccination record (mostly for rabies) and am aiming to get a health certificate from our local vet, although I don’t know how soon I can do this because different airlines say different things. Some say 15 days before flying, some say 10, but I can’t find this information for TAP and they don’t answer their emails (but I do plan on calling). Has anyone flown internationally with TAP? Is there anything in particular I should expect? Is my layover too short? I’m very worried about being denied.

    Also apparently cats go through the x-ray machine here, so should I have him wear his harness (has metal) for the flights or take it off?

    Any advice or suggestions are appreciated! I have no idea what to expect.

    Thank you for your guys’ time.

  35. Elizabeth – if your dog is flying with you as checked baggage, you will check it in at the ticket counter at the airport. If you have a larger dog, ask for a dolly at the curb or find an attendant to assist you. Ask your airline whether your dog needs a current health check and, for sure, make a reservation for your dog.

  36. I’m travelling interally in Spain. MAdrid to Lanzarote. I have a dog crate and her passport do I just arrive at Madrid airport and hope someone helps me? Would love any advice please!

  37. Wendy – you will pick your cats up at the cargo facility of your airline. This facility is generally located on the airport grounds but not the terminal unless it is a small airline.

  38. Hi! I am having my 2 cats unaccompanied move from Lusaka (Zambia) via Dubai to Schiphol (Amsterdam). Where do I pick them up?

  39. I have a 15 year old be able I wish to take to the Philippines. Are there any special requirements? Also is there a quarantine in manilia?

  40. Shelly – the need for a health certificate entering the US depends on what class of service your dog is traveling under. If it is flying in the cargo hold, then yes, it will need a health certificate. If flying in the cabin, United does not list this requirement. Returning to PR, if you are doing so, will require one. ( The TSA will not check for a health certificate; however, the check-in agent will.

  41. Shelly – practically every country requires a health certificate (at a minimum) for a dog or cat to enter the country. In many cases, the certificate must be endorsed by the governmental agency in the origination country responsible for the import and export of live animals. You can find step-by-step requirements to import your pet to over 220 countries worldwide here:

  42. Hello I’ll be traveling from Puerto Rico to San Francsico with United. Is there a requirement to have a travel certification for the dog to go through TSA? And how long does the Travel Certification last? Is it a requirement to get a Health certification form for my dog to travel and is it true the health form is only good for 1 month?

  43. Is i a requirement to have a travel certification for the dog to go through TSA? And how long does the Travel Certification last? Is it a requirement to get a Health form for my dog to travel and is it true the health form is only good for 1 month?

  44. Judy – you will remove your turtle from its carrier and walk it through the scanner with you. The carrier will go through x-ray. What airline are you flying? Iberia? Most all commercial airlines will not permit turtles to fly in the cabin.

  45. Has anyone bought there pet turtle to security check?

    Did you get denied?

    I will be flying at jfk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *