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TSA offers tips on traveling with pets

Many people want to bring their small pets with them when traveling by air.

TSA officer at Norfolk International Airport swabs the hands of a traveler as she comes through the checkpoint with her pet to ensure there are no traces of explosives

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- Many people want to bring their small pets with them when traveling by air.

Officials say 36.5 percent of households in the United States own dogs, with 30.4 percent owning cats. Transportation Security Administration authorities say traveling with a small pet can be easy, if travelers know what to expect.

If a pet is traveling in the cabin of an airplane with its owner, the TSA must screen it at the security checkpoint. Small dogs and cats are the most common pets that passengers want to travel with to their destination.

Here are some details on what pet owners can expect:

  • All pets should be brought to the security checkpoint in a hand-held travel carrier. Remove the pet from the carrier just prior to the beginning of the screening process.
  • Do not put the pet into the x-ray tunnel, which is used to screen a passenger’s personal property and carry-on baggage. Place the empty travel carrier on the belt to be x-rayed.
  • The pet should be carried during the screening process; alternately, a pet can walk through the scanner if the owner has the pet on a leash.
  • A TSA officer will give the pet owner’s hands an explosive trace detection swab to ensure there is no explosive residue on the hands.
  • Once the screening process is completed, owners should return the pet to the travel carrier.


  • Acclimate the pet to the process of traveling by familiarizing it with the travel carrier in the days leading up to the trip. This will help ensure it is more relaxed as it travels through the security process and the airport.
  • Avoid bringing pets to an area of the airport where a “working” canine is operating with its handler. Areas where it is common to see a working canine may include a security checkpoint or in the airport concourse.
  • Know the temperament of your pet and ensure that you can maintain control of it in a busy and potentially crowded environment at the airport. For example, it’s a good idea to use a leash or harness for a cat when removing it from a travel carrier because cats are easily “spooked” in noisy, unfamiliar environments such as checkpoints and may unintentionally scratch the pet owner in order to jump down, run off and hide.
  • Prior to arriving at the checkpoint, consider visiting one of the airport’s designated “pet relief” areas.
  • Pet travel restrictions vary by airline, so check with the airline before arriving at the airport.

“TSA understands that for many pet owners, their animals are considered family members and they may want to travel together,” says Norfolk’s TSA Assistant Federal Security Director Jeffrey Horowitz. “Becoming familiar with the procedures of how to pass through a TSA checkpoint quickly and easily is the first step to a great trip for pets and their humans.”

For more information, visit www.tsa.gov.

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