Pet Travel: How to Clear Airport Security with a Pet

Clearing airport security with a pet
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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 Joy – your kitty will need an Export Health Certificate issued by an Official Veterinarian in the UK prior to leaving the UK. You can find requirements to import your kitty to Ghana here: Know that if you decide to return to the UK, your kitty will need a rabies titer test. We recommend you get this test done prior to leaving the UK. Susan

  2. Hi , I am travelling with my 6months cat to Ghana from the uk for the first time . Please can you let me know all documents I should have in hand . I can’t go for the trip without him

  3. Visiting your blog was such a pleasure, and I’m looking forward to reading on more. Stay up to date with your blog posts, and I’ll be back again to see what new things you have to share.

  4. Juanita – all airports have private screening rooms. Arrive very early and request a supervisor. No employee wants a cat running loose in the airport.

  5. Has anyone flown out of Cancun Terminal 3 with a cat that accompanies you in the aircraft cabin? When I go through the security checkpoint, can I walk through with the cat in my arms but on a leash so if she manages to jump out of my arms she won’t escape? Or better yet, do they have private screening rooms? Thank you.

  6. Clearing airport security gets all the more complicated when you have a pet with you. And this is why I don’t think I’ll ever want to travel with a pet of mine.

  7. Hola, creemos que la aerolínea exigió que sus pájaros volaran en la bodega de carga. ¿Es eso correcto? Si es así, lo mismo sucederá en su viaje de regreso. Si la respuesta es no, y su aerolínea quería tomar una radiografía de sus aves antes de volar en la cabina, entonces esto es algo que debe derivar a un supervisor. Los animales vivos o las aves nunca deben pasar por una máquina de rayos X. Susan

  8. Hola.
    Tuve un problema en el aeropuerto de Cartago (Túnez). Me obligaron a pasar una jaula con dos aves y otra con una por por la cinta del control de equipaje, aamenazndome que si no lo hacía no embarcaba.
    Nome dieron opción a sacar las aves a una habitación segura.
    Quisiera saber donde denunciar este hecho, ya que regresaré por el mismo aeropuerto y temo hagan lo mismo.
    Muchas gracias

  9. Naik – if you are traveling with your cats, then they can fly as accompanied checked baggage and you can contact their reservations department for the cost. If you are not flying with your cats, then they must fly as air cargo and you will need an agent to book the transport for them. The cost will depend on the route, the countries they are flying from and to. If you need an agent to assist you, you can search for one at

  10. Laura – a pet must be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier during normal circumstances. When under the seat, your pet will lay down. Representative will confirm at check in.

  11. I don’t understand what airlines mean when they say an animal must be able to STAND in a pet carrier. When the carrier is under the seat? Most seats only have about 8” of space. Even average sized cats are taller than that when standing. Do they really check to see if the pet can stand up straight? Or do they just mean that the pet should be able to turn around and move comfortably?

  12. To whom it may concern:

    I can understand by reading the pet traveling rules and regulations. As you and I all know about pet owner of the USA , they require to have vaccinated every year and it?s effective for twelve months. Therefore, USA pet vaccines policy for owner and it?s pets wellbeing is 100% safer for health and environmental purposes as it is for USA and should be no questionable for any country, because pet owners and the Government of USA required rule are comparable for both owners and environmental purposes. Its pets are safe for any country as long these vaccines documents are with them.

    I urge all Airlines should allow the pets and of its owners in the cabin of the plane traveling with them as long the size requirements fits under the sits in order to make their journey enjoyable and effective. I also urge to make a possible suitable rule for the pets so they can be accompanied with their loved one and enjoy the trips without any frustration. Please don?t make it complicated if the animals size fits under the owner or passenger sit and pet can feels the same as human . They are much better than human and they are thankful always be with their mentor or owner or loving person. Thanks for considering above easy rule to make effective for every Airlines .

  13. Chacha – birds can be tough to transport due to the outbreaks of Avian. Many countries will not allow the transport of birds. Also, very few airlines will allow a bird in the cabin. Flying in the cargo hold can be stressful for a bird. Can you travel by ground from your country?

  14. Hello, i am so lost about where to find right answer for my pet bird. I wna take him to travel with me anywhere as I cannot leave him or else he will die. He is a Cockatiel and very calm. Doesnt even make a noicse as long as he is with me. How can I take him with me. What are the requirements for him on the plane and other countries.
    Please advise.
    Thank you so much.

  15. Arminda – Si ingresa a Italia con un perro o un gato de Colombia, su mascota necesitar? un microchip, vacuna antirr?bica, prueba de t?tulo antirr?bico y certificado sanitario. Si su mascota no tiene un microchip, se necesitar?n 4 meses para completar el proceso. Vea las regulaciones aqu? y hay un bot?n de Google Translate en la parte superior de la p?gina:

  16. Hola estoy en colombia y nos vamos a vivir a Italia, tenemos 2 ninfas y me las quiero llevar. Me puede ayudar a aclarar como hago. Gracias

  17. Anne – you are correct that Korea is not included on the list of countries that requires a rabies certificate for dogs entering the US. You may want to send the updated regulations to Asiana Airlines as they may not have updated their representatives. That said, their policies will preside, updated or not. Try calling back and speaking to another representative.

  18. Hi,

    I?m trying to bring over a 10 week old puppy from South Korea to Los Angeles in cabin with a family member who is coming. Per Asiana airlines, they could not reserve a spot for the puppy because the US requires rabies vaccinations but she is too young for one. Per CDC, it states a rabies vaccination is not required for dogs under 4 months if they are coming from a country that is a low risk country for rabies, which Korea is. How can I go about this situation?

  19. Mell – TRACES is a system that tracks unaccompanied intra-EU Member State transport for live animals. As you are traveling with your kitten, then your kitten can travel under the Pet Travel Scheme and registration in TRACES is not required. Your kitten will need proof of a current rabies vaccination administered not sooner than 12 weeks of age and at the same time or later than when a microchip is implanted. The kitty must wait for 21 days after chip and rabies vaccination to travel. It will also need an EU Pet Passport issued in Latvia. The passport will be valid to transit through all countries as well as enter the UK.

  20. Hi, I am hoping to bring a 17 week old kitten from Latvia to D?sseldorf by plane then by road to the UK.
    I know I need an EU passport and TRACES, what else is required for me to land in Germany
    Many thanks

  21. Grace – currently, the import of pets is under the jurisdiction of many agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. There has been some concern as of late and legislation has been proposed to center responsibilities under one agency in order to prevent the import of pets that may carry diseases that the US does not require tests for. Due to this increased awareness, border control has tightened inspections of pets entering the country. You can find more details here:

    As these agencies are responsible for protecting the US from the import of various diseases, the short answer to your question is yes, customs officials have the right to further inspect the dog. The blood tests should clear the dog and it should be cleared for import.

  22. My friend just adopted a dog from Korea and she arrived at San Francisco airport today.
    The dog was fully recovered from canine distemper but had some muscle spasms as a side effect. This was all written in the document.
    The airport, however, did not release the dog saying the ?seizure? could be contagious and the dog couldve gotten it from the plane. The airport almost returned the dog right after 14 hrs of flight, requesting a vet to come to the SFO to confirm this is just a side effect from distemper.
    After a few hours, airport decided to take the dog to the quarantine area and do some blood works.
    My question is, can they do this even after the paperwork was signed from a vet in Korea said the dog is having muscle spasms after recovery?

  23. Sarah – your friend must first get airline acceptance to board the dog in Panama. We do not know your airline’s policies regarding dealing with aggressive dogs; however, air cargo employees will likely be very sensitive to handle an aggressive dog unless it is confined in a heavy wood or metal crate (not a plastic crate).

    When landing in the UK, an employee of the Animal Reception Center will take the dog from the aircraft to the ARC office. The ARC is located on airport grounds but not in the terminal. It would be best to contact the ARC and ask about their handling and processing procedures for dogs that may be aggressive. Google the ARC at the airport where the dog will be landing (Heathrow, Gatwick or Edinburgh) and get their contact information. Several of them use agents for clearing. We would note that if your friend is traveling with his or her dog, then it can also land at Manchester or Glasgow.

  24. Hi. I am helping a fellow Brit return home from Panama to the Uk later this year. He wants to bring his Boxer/Rhodesian Ridgeback cross back home with him. The problem is the dog is likely to be aggressive with strangers handling him, ie. the Vet and customs staff, if they get him out of his crate upon landing in the UK. What is the procedure for landing and clearing customs? And will the UK likely refuse entry or ou the dog down if he shows signs of aggression?

  25. Kerri – as your pup is over 3 months of age, it should travel with proof of rabies vaccination. although it is always a good idea to travel with a current health certificate, Air Canada does not require it unless your pup is flying as unaccompanied air cargo (which will not be the case).

  26. I will be travelling within Canada- Ottawa to Newfoundland with 13 week old pup. I have documentation of vaccinations. Last vaccination was at 8 weeks old. Will Air Canada require documentation that pup is cleared to travel?

  27. Carina – if your toddler is a handful, then you may consider flying your cat as checked baggage in the cargo hold. Although it is preferable to fly it in the cabin, it may not be the best for you as you will have your hands full as it is. If clearing security is your only concern, know that you can request a room to remove your cat from the carrier so that security officials can x-ray the carrier. Be sure and arrive at the security checkpoint very early as it may take a bit of time to arrange this.

  28. I am planning on traveling with a toddler and cat. What is the best plan or routine to go about that to make it easier for me since I will have no help

  29. Leena – you need to contact Air Canada and make a reservation for your cat. They will only fly a certain number of pets in the cabin. Within 7 days of export, your cat will need a health certificate from their vet as well as an Animal Health Certificate from the Animal Quarantine and Certification Service in India. If you intend to return to India, be sure and get an export Notice of No Objection.

  30. I am travelling to Canada with my pet cat By Air Canada from Mumbai India . All his vaccinations are done. Do i need any specific papers or can I just reach the airport check us in like regular ?

  31. Sarah – as you will be changing airline companies, you and your dog will need to clear customs and enter Germany. It is difficult to say how long this process will take but the general rule is 4 hours. You will need to check with Condor to see how far in advance you must check your dog in. Your dog must conform to regulations here: Steps 1-5 should be in order. Transit permit is not required. It would be much easier to stay on the same airline until you get to your destination country if possible.

  32. Hi,
    I will be transiting through the Frankfort Airport in June. I will be arriving from Muscat, Oman, on Oman AIr. I have a 3 hour, 40 minute layover. I will be leaving to Anchorage, Alaska, USA on Condor Airlines. Both airlines have the space to check my dog as baggage, in the cargo hold. But I am unsure of the process to self-transfer my pet. Can this be done? She already has her rabies, titer test for blood work, and all shots up to date. Oman will issue me a health certificate. Do I need to obtain a transit certificate? I can’t find much information online.
    Thank you.

  33. Hi Joe – not sure what airline you will be flying, but you should plan to claim your Dachshund at MNL and take it outside for a walk. You will be changing terminals (likely) from domestic to international at MNL and 9 hours will enough time to take your pup outside and give it a nice walk. All large US airports have pet relief areas but this does not extend to airports in other countries.

    When you arrive in LAX, customs clearance should not be an issue when clear customs with your pup as long as these requirements are met including health and rabies certificates and screwworm inspection: Visas for pet owners are not our expertise however, the US Embassy may be able to address your question about your wife. We have not heard of issues with a non-citizens importing a pet if they are listed as the owner of the pet.

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