The Transportation Security Administration has a message for all travelers: Do not send your pet through the X-ray machine at airports.
While it doesn’t happen every day, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials note that incidents of people accidentally, or purposefully, sending their pets through an airport’s screening process are on the rise. Doing so needlessly subjects pets to X-rays.
For instance, a live cat in a checked suitcase was sent through airport security at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport last November. Then in December, a dachshund chihuahua mix in a backpack was accidentally sent through the X-ray at Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wisconsin.
“We are seeing more people traveling with their pets and too many people are leaving them in the carrier case and sending them through the machine,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said, according to the Washington Post. “No living creature, human or animal, needs to be exposed to X-rays they don’t need.”
To put a spotlight on the problem, and hopefully educate travelers, the TSA recently demonstrated the correct screening procedure for travelers with pets at several airports.
Here’s what you need to know if you travel with your pet.
Passing Through Security With Your Pet
Here’s how to safely pass through airport security with your pet, following TSA guidelines.
First, place your pet’s carrier on the belt that leads to the scanner and then remove your pet.
Next, walk through the metal detector carrying your pet or leading your leashed pet.
After exiting the metal detector, a TSA officer may swab your hands to check for explosive material.
When your pet’s empty carrier has passed through X-rays you can put your pet back in its “accommodations.”
After that, you and your pet can then proceed to your gate or to the pet relief area, whichever is more urgent.
Cats, on the other hand, may present a different scenario because, as Farbstein said, “They can wriggle, scratch, hop down, and run away.”
For travelers with cats or pets that are anxious, aggressive, or birds that may fly away, Farbstein recommends a private screening room.
However, using a private screening room does add some extra steps to the screening process.
First, the traveler will either hand the carrier — with the pet inside — to the TSA officer and walk through the metal detector, or the traveler can walk through the metal detector carrying the pet in its enclosure.
A TSA officer will then escort you and your pet to a room where your pet can be visually or physically inspected.
Importantly, pets wearing a coat, sweater, or other apparel may need to be patted down but you won’t need to undress them.
Next, an employee will run the carrier through the screening machine and then return it to you and your pet.
Finally, once cleared, you can put your pet back in its enclosure and proceed to your gate or the pet relief area.
More About Traveling Safely With Pets
TSA also offers some fun videos of how to travel safely with pets.
You can find those tips on TSA’s “Taking your human on a plane: what every pet needs to know.”
You can also find an overview of traveling with small pets in TSA’s Small Pets guidance.
Finally, keep in mind that in addition to TSA’s protocols, passengers and their pets must also follow individual airlines’ rules for pet travel. For example, many carriers will not permit certain types of animals in the cabin, such as rodents and reptiles.
For more about pets and airports and flying, be sure to also read